Sticking to the union?

Bill Camp.

Bill Camp.

Welcome to the “Oh crap, it was Labor Day?” edition of Frontlines.

The Kevin Johnson campaign is so proud of his endorsement by local labor unions that Bites decided to stop by the annual Labor Day picnic in Land Park earlier this month and try to catch a glimpse of the candidate chumming it up with his labor buddies.

There was the secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, Bill Camp, trying to get everybody who’s anybody in local Democratic politics into a rousing chorus of “Union Maid.” He was only partially successful.

On the stage with him was a who’s who of local Democratic politicians. Among the group of those Camp called “our labor warriors” were: SMUD board member Larry Carr, state Assemblyman Dave Jones, state Sen. Darrell Steinberg, Sacramento City Councilwomen Sandy Sheedy and Bonnie Pannell, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi and congressional candidates Charlie Brown and Bill Durston, among others.

Noticeably absent from the stage: Mayor Heather Fargo. Fargo wasn’t endorsed by Camp’s crew, but she hitched a ride with Jones and Steinberg, and seemed to be having a good time at the picnic anyway. Awkward …

Also noticeably absent, the man himself, the labor council’s pick for mayor, Kevin Johnson.

I’d gotten a press release in the morning saying Johnson would “participate” in the event. But he was a no-show for Camp’s roll call. Later, word came from his campaign staff that K.J.'s no-show was due to a “family emergency.”

Bites will assume that’s really the case. And that his absence had nothing to do with the handful of protesters walking around with a big banner that read “Kevin Johnson unfit for mayor,” and another sign reading “St. Hope is anti-labor.” Seems not everybody is happy with the labor council’s pick, since in K.J.'s only real foray into public policy—taking over Sacramento High School and converting it into an independent charter school—his strategy was to give the teachers’ union the boot.

If Johnson is such a good friend of labor, why are there no union teachers at Sac High? Johnson’s campaign spokesman Steve Maviglio says the teachers there are free to organize a union if they want to. They just choose not to.

Bites is calling bullshit. Technically, we’re all free to join unions if we want to. We just choose not to get harassed and fired for trying to organize. And from everything Bites has heard, teachers at Sac High speak the “U” word at their peril.

K.J. should put his money where Bill Camp’s mouth is. If he wants to show that he’s really a progressive Democrat—which is where Heather Fargo’s base lives—then open the doors to the union. Offer his employees the same deal that his supporters, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Councilwoman Sandy Sheedy, Councilman Steve Cohn and Bill Camp are demanding that the local Blue Diamond Almond company offer its employees. Pass out the union cards and let the teachers sign up if they want to, without interference.

(While you’re at it, you can show your solidarity with our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters by flowing at least a couple hundred thousand bucks from your ridiculously outsized campaign war chest to defeat Proposition 8. Progressive Democrat, remember.)

Do all that, and if the teachers join the union by November 4, you’ll get Bites’ endorsement. Or, at least Bites will buy you a “World’s Best Boss” coffee mug. Then we’ll all head down to the union hall, knock a couple back and sing from the little red songbook all night.