Thursday, October 13, 2005

Kerry takes on Schwarzenegger over union power

Kerry takes on Schwarzenegger over union power
Thu Oct 13, 2005 08:55 PM ET

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Sen. John Kerry, losing Democratic U.S. presidential candidate in 2004 and a possible contender in 2008, took on Republican California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on Thursday by lobbying against his initiative to curb the power of the state's labor unions.

Kerry was the second leading national politician this week to weigh in on California's Prop. 75 ballot initiative, which would require unions to get approval from members before using dues for political causes.

"This represents part of an ongoing effort by the Republican Party to create an unfair playing field, to change the balance of democracy in America," Kerry said.

"They are willing to try to take away the democratic rights of working Americans," said the Massachusetts senator, who was speaking to reporters at a fire station with Democratic Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain, also seen as a possible presidential challenger in 2008, had appeared with Schwarzenegger to campaign for the initiative on Monday.

Democrats have criticized McCain as an out-of-state politician who had no business telling Californians how to vote but Kerry, asked about the same issue, said the ballot measure had national ramifications.

California and the political power of its public employee unions could be critical in the 2008 election. Public employee unions have fought bitterly against Prop. 75, pouring some $100 million into the campaign ahead of the November 8 election.

Kerry took shots at Schwarzenegger directly, saying the governor who gained power in part by vowing to reject special interest money had "raised three times the special interest money than Gray Davis," the incumbent Democrat he defeated.

Todd Harris, a spokesman for Schwarzenegger, called Prop. 75 a critical reform for California, where public employee unions have long had enormous influence in the heavily Democratic state legislature.

"There is no question the legislature in Sacramento is bought and paid for by union bosses," he said. "The fact that the union bosses have been able to spend over $100 million to fight against these reforms is evidence that they have too much power. The governor has said enough is enough."


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