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Local News

Santa Barbara County Democratic Party Enters the Fray Over Collective Bargaining

Local news conference and rally are held in support of public-union employees in Wisconsin

As Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker continues his push to eliminate collective bargaining rights of certain public employees, the Santa Barbara County Democratic Party is voicing its support of local public-union workers.

Santa Barbara County Democratic Party chairman Daraka Larimore-Hall said during a news conference organized Monday in front of the County Administration Building that Walker’s proposal is an assault on fundamental human rights and the First Amendment right to assembly.

“Union is not a dirty word,” he said, adding that he believes conservatives in California have had an ideological agenda to get rid of collective bargaining for generations.

He said public employees are not to blame for the economic downturn or decisions to invest pension funds in the failing market, as the California Public Employees Retirement System did.

He said Monday’s protest was not just in solidarity with Wisconsin, but to protect the livelihoods of public employees in Santa Barbara County.

Lanny Ebenstein, president of the Santa Barbara County Taxpayers Association, started the Californians for Public Union Reform in early February, a group writing a statewide ballot measure that would end collective bargaining. Ebenstein told Noozhawk that it would be the right solution for confronting the government’s budget deficits.

SEIU Local 620 member Deedrea Edgar, a deputy public defender for the county, said she represents those who have no voice. She said public defenders start out with thousands of dollars in student loans and take the comparatively low-paying county jobs because they care — not to get wealthy.

Belen Seara, executive director of PUEBLO, People United for Economic Justice Building Leadership through Organizing, said Walker and his supporters are polarizing their community and blaming public employees for the economic problems instead of sharing responsibility.

Members of the Coalition of University Employees, which is represented by the Teamsters, spoke as well.

Jose Raygoza, a member of the clerical staff at UCSB, said the Coalition of University Employees labor group hasn’t received a pay raise since 2007, all while the UC system added executive positions and increased salaries.

Julian Posadas, also a UC system employee, said the effort to blame unions is a deflection from the issue of “greedy corporations.” He urged other employees to organize, inform everyone they know and stand up for their rights to collectively bargain.

The group will hold a rally at 6 p.m. Monday in De la Guerra Plaza behind City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk or @NoozhawkNews.

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