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Union Roundup

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“This week Gov. Sch- warzenegger faces more than a thousand pieces of liberal legislation in Sacramento. Time for Arnold to get out his BIG Sharpie… and VETO these waisted (sic) trees.”Thus spake the website of Fox-owned KTKZ radio, Sacramento’s own locus for venomous rightwing “talk” radio. And sure enough, SAG member Arnold—proving once again that labor’s interests are rarely served when a member of that Guild nabs the California governor’s office—came through for the business interests that remain his primary backers.Now, it’s true this bill would have had little effect on the kinds of Hollywood “outsourcing”—the phenomenon formerly known as “job flight”—we write about here. The bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Carol Liu, would only affect state contracts—in other words, the state couldn’t award contracts to any company using offshore labor for the job in question.The Pasadena Star-News, in an editorial weighing in against the bill, replicated a lot of GOP talking points, accusing Democrats of “pandering to such wedge issues as outsourcing” and calling upon Liu to look “beyond the narrow concerns of special interests to the greater good of the state.”Oddly, when the U.S. Senate passed its end-of-session corporate tax bill that was loaded with a tax rollback for multinational corporations, a sop to tobacco producers, and specific breaks for interests ranging from restaurant owners to NASCAR track owners—among others—both the Star-News, and KTKZ fell strangely silent in their newfound vigilance over “pandering,” and “waist (sic).”Even Arizona’s occasional maverick, GOP Sen. John McCain, called the Senate bill “a classic example of the special interests prevailing over the people’s interest.” Among those special interests were Hollywood’s film studios—which, keep in mind, are simply the entertainment divisions of larger corporations these days—and tax breaks for independent film producers.Of the latter, the general idea is that productions will get a tax break for films and TV shows shot stateside that clock in at $15 million or less—or up to a whopping $20 million if shot in the Mississippi Delta or other economically distressed areas.This will allow lawmakers on the Federal level to crow that they’re on the case when it comes to production-related job flight—never mind the small percentage of actual gigs affected (though, hey, if it helps develop more regional storytelling voices in world, then good…).Back on the California front, it’s true that Liu’s bill suffered what might be called a “perceptual setback” when an independent study commissioned by the Assembly, and conducted by the San Francisco-based Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), concluded that “What data are available suggest that the number of jobs being off-shored is small relative both to the overall labor market and to the number of people working in the relevant at-risk occupations.”Of course, in other studies, PPIC has extolled the benefits of NAFTA for California’s economy, so they’re not predisposed to come down hard on any of the perceived benefits—or the fallout—of globalization. And we might paraphrase the words of Republican demigod Ronald Reagan, who once said that a “recession is when the other guy loses his job, and a depression is when you lose yours.” Perhaps the severity of outsourcing works the same way.But the larger point, and the point for readers of this column, is this: On the same day the Governor terminated the outsourcing bill, he also vetoed a raise in California’s minimum wage, parroting the predictable line that each piece of legislation was a “job killer.”Labor shouldn’t operate under the illusion that it has much of a friend in the Governor’s office (of course, it didn’t have much of a friend in Gray Davis either, but Arnold is much more up front about it).Further, the game of pro-corporate politicians, and their handy echo-chamber in right-leaning media, should be clear: labor, and its interests, will always be a “special interest.” Tax breaks for corporations, however, are designed to “get the economy moving.”Workers in Hollywood’s various guilds and unions wouldn’t have been directly affected had Schwarzenegger signed the outsourcing bill—the metrics of job flight in Tinsel Town are working on larger scales than the ones addressed in Liu’s proposal.But: Had Arnold bothered to sign it, in a sop to his alleged “moderation,” it would have created a climate that put corporations—including those whose entertainment divisions will be enjoying that juicy tax break just passed by the U.S. Senate—on notice that the rampant exploitation of lower-wage, lower (or non) benefit job markets, was no longer quite as politically acceptable as it once was.By vetoing the legislation, the Governor hasn’t done much, in particular, to keep or create jobs in California. He has, in fact, given the winking green light that his administration will doubtless look the other way whenever one of his corporate contributors decide their interests are best served by moving work—whether shooting television shows or staffing phones for “tech support” lines—far away from the very Golden State where union protections and strong local economies once helped the Austrian immigrant prosper.

Written by Mark London Williams

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