Pelosi Honored by Labor; Decries Supreme Court as “Last Precinct”

Written by Kat Anderson. Posted in Labor, News, Politics

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Published on April 08, 2012 with 13 Comments

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi was honored for her 25 years of public service by the house of labor during this year's COPE Banquet held Thursday at the Union Square Hilton Hotel. The annual benefit was sponsored by the San Francisco Labor Council. Photos by Luke Thomas.

By Kat Anderson

April 8, 2012

Even while basking in the adulation of her hometown union allies, House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi sounds anything but ready to lay down arms in what she considers a growing right-wing assault on labor and the middle class.

Pelosi was honored at a political dinner the other night by the San Francisco Labor Council for her 25 years of service in Congress. In her speech at the Hilton Hotel, she warned that Republicans fronting for a secretive monied elite intend to destroy collective bargaining.

“Then they have it all,” Pelosi said.

Republicans led by presumptive presidential nominee Mitt Romney are accusing the Democrats of waging a class war, destroying the economy’s job-creating potential by strangling corporations and small business in burdensome regulation and taxes.

Pelosi would have none of it in her feisty talk to the San Francisco labor crowd.

She offered no surprises following the accolades and chicken dinner served during the Labor Council’s annual COPE benefit. She called for increased transparency in campaign finance, the salvation of Medicare, and more support for middle-class and working families.

She insisted that Democratic leaders crave civility in Washington while “right-wingers” are poisoning the atmosphere with misrepresentations.

Confusing the electorate with Republican double-speak and demonization is a deliberate strategy, she said, which causes people to grow frustrated and lose interest in politics. The idea is to create an atmosphere so toxic that ordinary voters decide it’s not worth paying attention.

Such a climate only favors the super-wealthy and special interests, which Pelosi characterized as the “point zero one percent (who) want it all for themselves.”

She said this November’s election is “the most important election of our time.” And though she admitted that’s a phrase heard in practically every election since the Eisenhower administration, she insisted it’s true — because the stakes keep rising every campaign cycle.

Pelosi took special aim at the U.S. Supreme Court for laying groundwork for the battle now being waged.

In the 2000 general election, the justices voted along party nomination lines (5-4) to deliver the presidential election to George W. Bush over Al Gore. Then, in 2010, the Supreme Court issued the notorious Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision. That ruling, in the words of President Obama, “reversed a century of law to open the floodgates for special interests — including foreign corporations — to spend without limit in our elections.”

Now, Pelosi expressed concern that a partisan high court will strike down some or all provisions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, signed into law last year and currently being challenged by several states and organizations as unconstitutional. She portrayed the court not as an independent judicial branch but a partner in a political game led by corporate interests.

“What they are doing, aided and abetted by the Supreme Court — which my brother refers to as the ‘last precinct’ — is suffocating identified money and putting up obstacles to participation,” Pelosi warned.

With an image of President Obama signing the historic and controversial Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law last year, Pelosi expressed concern that a partisan U.S. Supreme Court will strike down some or all provisions of the bill.

Pelosi harkened back to the days when elected officials occupied places along a political spectrum where the focus was to find common ground. “Now, we’re on two different roads,” she said.

She offered an ABC summary of her own favored path, suggesting goals that should rise above the partisan divide. “A,” she said, was for “American made – we don’t want to be protectionist; just self-reliant; “B” is to “build the infrastructure” of America; “C” is to strengthen “community.” She added one more, a “D” for “disclose,” drawing a big round of applause by suggesting that sponsors of political ads be required to “stand by their ads, and at the end of the commercial let the public know the source.”

The evening’s other speakers — local and state labor leaders — focused on upcoming battles including a deceptively packaged assault on union political rights on the California November ballot and an array of San Francisco collective bargaining campaigns.

Twenty-eight of 31 contracts between public sector unions and San Francisco City Hall are coming up for renegotiation. In the private sector, janitors, parking attendants, waste management drivers and building trades unions, to name a few, are enduring regressive bargaining. Meanwhile, concessionary demands from Verizon are still being faced by 40,000 CWA and IBEW workers, and talks with AT&T appear headed toward the brink.

Olga Miranda, head of the janitors union SEIU Local 87, said that over 100,000 workers are negotiating contracts with businesses in the Bay Area, and they are being squeezed for pay concessions that “are robbing our families with our eyes open.” She got the labor crowd worked up as the Hilton waiters, represented by HERE Local 2, moved among the tables.

“It does not matter if you wear a suit,” she said. “Show the people what solidarity looks like.”

Olga Miranda, SEIU Local 87.

Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation, provided a stark warning of a state measure planned for the California November ballot that he called “corporate deception.”

“Of anything we have ever faced before that will change the political landscape and turn California into a red state is this measure,” Pulaski said.

Art Pulaski, California Labor Federation.

Pulaski said the measure, under the guise of “campaign finance reform,” prohibits unions from supporting local or state candidates for public office. However, in the fine print of the proposed legislation there is no limit to the amount of money that a corporation can contribute to an independent expenditure committee or super PAC.

Combine this measure with the effects of Citizens United, and there exists what Pulaski calls a “two-shot hit” on unions with potentially devastating effects.

Elections would become “corporate coronations,” declared Pulaski, and he urged his union brethren to organize and fight back. “Let’s kick their ass!” he implored.

Carl T. Hall and Luke Thomas contributed to this report.

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House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi.

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Kat Anderson

Kat Anderson is a graduate of Hastings College of the Law and Stanford University. She has made San Francisco her home since 1988.

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Comments for Pelosi Honored by Labor; Decries Supreme Court as “Last Precinct” are now closed.

  1. I never liked Pelosi. She made me want to vote out side my pastry line – and I consider my self as a hard line Democrat.

  2. @Richmondman, Eric beat me to the post on responding. But I have to concur. Eric is talking about an evolutionary social advance.

    It’s a little short-sighted to assume that anything that’s not capitalism is therefore communism.

    I often wonder if the most perfect society will ever be discovered, less accepted, one that places a priority on survival, peace and harmony. One thing we can all agree on: the systems we have in place are failing us.

    As oil prices continue to soar (global peak oil has arrived), we may have no alternative than to go local, as Eric describes.

    A toast to the end of cheap oil!

  3. Why is it that you always assume that when progressives propose getting rid of capitalism, that this means adopting centralized communism and/or getting rid of local, truly free markets, as envisioned by Adam Smith?

    News flash. The red scare ended six decades ago.

    I’m not talking about centralized communism or the elimination of legitimate local markets.

  4. I appreciate that others here see the hypocricy that Pelosi represents, but Communism is a failed system that has never led to any improvements for people or society. Free enterprise is responsible for virtually every improvement in living conditions were are fortunate to have now. Rampant corruption exists in our govrnment, but the fixes needed are huge, but are simple. Ban political contributions from anyone but registered voters (PACs, Unions). Set up a flat-tax with everyone paying the same % of their income (regardless of source) and eliminate all deductions. Eliminate Corporate Income tax, but have shareholders pay tax on the Earnings per Share of their investments at personal income tax rates. But in the end, if 30% of people exercise their responsiblity to vote, then they effectively choose for the other 70% who sit on their butts and do nothing but complain.

  5. This isn’t about replacing Nancy Pelosi. It is about effective revolution to force real changes in this country.

    The point of our remarks is not to simply criticize Pelosi, it is to insist that liberals stop wasting precious grassroots organizing time energy and money supporting Democrats when they are not going to change a damned thing.

    The point is not to myopically focus on replacing Pelosi, but to have an actual grassroots revolution in this country which begins to replace our corrupt governance structure from the ground up, with localized direct democracy, local distributed clean energy, local food, universal mass transit, public communications, public banks, etc. And at the same time dismantle corporate personhood so that we can begin extricating corporations from or governing structures; and then phase out capitalism before it destroys the entire planet (eventually replacing it with localized community and worker direct democracy in neighborhoods and workplaces).

    Politicians, even good ones, will not be able to work inside the current political system to make these changes. We have to force such evolutions in democracy through mass public uprising, civil disobedience, and the building of new local governance and currency systems, etc.

    Indeed the fact that you are still focusing on the 20th century strategy of simply replacing one politician with another, through our failed electoral system, shows that you don’t yet get that national electoral politics are no longer a solution.

    We need to overturn and rebuild the system itself, not hire politicians to meekly tinker around its edges.

  6. I get that you all hate Pelosi, each for your own reasons. What’s your plan to replace her then?

  7. What Eric and Luke said. And:

    Even Noam Chomsky, who has long advocated “least worst” voting if you live in a swing state, finally crossed the line and endorsed the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein in the 2012 presidential race:

    “We have to turn our backs for good on the Democrats, no matter what ghoulish candidate the Republicans offer up for president.” -Chris Hedges, “The Election March of the Trolls,”

    “I think what our audience needs to know is that there was a great deal of hope about the coming of the Obama Administration to power. And many of us worked for him . . . The tragedy is that this Administration has done more damage than even the Bush Administration overseas, especially in Somalia.” -University of Minnesota Geography Professor Abdi Samatar, speaking to AfrobeatRadio, WBAI-N.Y.C.,

  8. Apparently our union brethren view Pelosi as a friend to labor, at least in terms of what alternatives are available. In that sense, the Dems are the lesser of two evils.

    The same argument is being made for Obama’s re-election despite the fact that Obama signed into law the FAA Reauthorization Bill which labor opposed.

    Also, Pelosi has never reconciled her publicly stated opposition to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq while supporting war appropriations. “Supporting the troops,” just doesn’t cut it.

  9. This article is so wrong headed, and naive, and destructive to the movement now needed to create a real people’s revolution, and -stop- wasting our organizing time and energy electing good cop Democrats to supposedly defend us from bad cop Republicans; -all- of whom -especially- Nancy Pelosi, have continued to shamelessly allow corporations to take over our country while they have continuously voted for the largest war budget in human -history- while social services and state and local budgets are drastically cut.

    Please -stop- calling us to the same stupid massive waste of our activist time energy and resources which we, just four years ago, utterly threw away, uselessly electing that finance corporation coopted, war mongering, incredibly deceptive PR master, Barack Obama, expecting him to make change.

    Give me a damned break.

    I cannot believe that you and so many others, are -actually- going to fall for this good-cop/bad-cop deception YET AGAIN…

    Please wake the hell up.

    Nancy Pelosi is a war criminal, and is a -member- of the 1%, not a defender of the people or democracy.

    We need to rise up and shut this country down, not elect Democrats.

  10. This is the Pelosi who, as House Speaker, took “off the table” the impeachment of George W. Bush and everyone else in his reich for mass murder and for shredding the U.S. Constitution that they voluntarily swore to defend against all enemies; who earlier helped smooth the way for shifting management of the Presidio to the private sector; and who last year joined 92 Democratic colleagues in voting for the patently unconstitutional National Defense Authorization Act.

  11. It’s like watching the last days of a fading empire. This is SF bread and circuses. The citizens and “leaders” of SF retreat to smaller and smaller circles trying to keep the barbarians at bay. Only the enormous wealth and large economy allow them enough money to do so. Pelosi classic picture of fading, diminished Empress.

  12. Last I heard the workers at her vinyards still aren’t organized. She tried to make an exception for American Simola from raising minimum wage because of her tuna canneries there.

  13. I’m glad to see the Minority Leader oppose foreign donations in US political campaigns. When can I expect to read her denunciation of the Obama reelection campaign for disabling security measures on their donation page (again), thus making it trivial for foreign donors to contribute to Obama (again)? See: