Not shy and retiring

Thousands of angry and sweaty citizens stormed the Capitol last week on a sweltering afternoon, demanding change from the governor (they also wanted shade and bottled water).

Fuming state employees and teachers were chanting and singing songs such as “Hit the road Arnold, and don’t you come back no more.” Not bad, playing off the popularity of the movie Ray, and the lyrics seemed fitting.

There were the movie clichés, of course, and one that played off the governor’s name and his truthfulness regarding education funding: “Schwarzen-renegger.”

But as the temperature went up, so too did the mean-spiritedness. There were more than a few signs that attacked the governor’s European heritage: Perhaps the least offensive was his picture with the caption “Worst Weiner.” Has it come to this? A few alluded to his admitted indiscretions: “Arnold, keep your groping hands off of education funds.”

But have things gotten so bad with the Schwarzenegger administration that this sign was pulled out: “Bring Back Gray Davis!”?

Sprinkled throughout the crowd were signs that proclaimed, “Our retirement is not for sale” and “Retirement security for all.” A California State Employees Association member had one: “Don’t privatize our retirement security.” This in relation to a proposed initiative to force new state employees into a plan that would be more like the 401(k) savings packages that exist throughout the private workforce and so jeopardize the power that is CalPERS (see “Will Arnold smash state employees’ piggy bank?”).

That original initiative was pulled by the governor and his supporters, pending the outcome of legislation that would privatize employee pensions. But on the day that thousands of employees stormed the Capitol, a number of Democrats on a committee successfully killed the legislation. This now means the Republicans see the initiative route as the only avenue left to them, and they will consider it in the coming year.

Of course, there will be renewed resistance from the workers, reflected in these signs seen at the Capitol: “Main Street NOT Wall Street” and “No Retreat, No Surrender.”