One of the hottest-button statewide issues in this election cycle is over campaign fundraising by labor unions.
They'd be barred from using payroll deductions for political purposes if Proposition 32 passes.
Prop. 32 has been billed as a "paycheck protection" and "stop special interest money" initiative.
Critics see it as a showdown that pits business against labor.
Backers insist corporations will be reined in, too.
The arguments are playing out several times a day in commercials running in major California media markets.
"Money and politics,” says the narrator of a TV spot behalf of Prop. 32. “Corporations and unions give politicians millions in contributions. They get tax breaks and big pensions."
Retorts a commercial opposing the measure: "The groups funding Prop. 32 have exempted themselves, so these special interests will have free rein to give more tax breaks to themselves."
Organized labor sees itself as the real target of Prop. 32, even though corporations and government contractors would be subject to payroll-deduction bans.
Says Lorena Gonzalez, CEO of the SD-Imperial Counties Labor Council: "It's not saying 'We're going to change the way people give through payrolls' -- it's silencing the vote of teachers, nurses fire fighters and people who give just a couple of dollars each seek in order to try to compete."
Prop. 32 backers say union members could still opt contribute voluntarily – but that the unions just couldn't take that money for granted any more.
Says T.J. Zane, president of the Lincoln Club of SD County: "They have to go out and do what the business community, including myself, have to do every day when we're soliciting support for our endorsed candidates and ballot measures -- which is go out and ask for the money."
Prop.32, which also bans unions and corporations from contributing to candidates and their committees, is generating tens of millions of dollars in campaign financing.
"The No side is made up of two and a half million people in California who have given very little amounts to fight for First Amendment rights and participate in politics,” says Gonzalez “And yet the Koch brothers and other billionaires, big CEOs are writing checks for millions of dollars … The Koch Brothers are in the state of California right now spending millions and millions of dollars -- from two people."
Zane insists Prop. 32 has plenty of detractors in the corporate sector.
"The telecom industry, tobacco industry, petroleum industry -- you name it,” he says, “there are substantive corporate interests opposed to this initiative."
Recent poll indicate support for Prop. 32 ranges from 36 to 51 percent, with blocs of undecided voters ranging from 10 to 20 percent.
Two similar, but less-far reaching measures, were rejected by voters in 1998 and 2005.