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Friday, September 01, 2006

Saylor's Labor Moment

It was one of those awkward moments when Don Saylor got up before a group of Democrats in Davis on Thursday night and gave a rather long and dispassionate history of labor in this country. It was a strange moment and Saylor who has at times given quite good speeches, and is generally articulate, but here he clearly sounded flat and uncomfortable. Compared to speeches by John Garamendi, JR (son John Garamendi, Democratic Candidate for Lt. Governor), former Yolo County DA candidate Pat Lenzi and former Davis Human Relations Commision Chair Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald, it was a complete yawner.

People have good nights and bad nights, the surprising thing about Saylor’s comments is that he has a track-record that goes against labor. We can trace this back to his days on the school board of Davis. He was initially elected in 1995 with the endorsement of the Davis Teacher’s Association. However, in 1999, he was re-elected despite not getting the teacher’s endorsement. What changed? A few things. For one, the teacher’s felt that with his background as an educator for the CYA, Saylor would be supportive of programs for disadvantaged and at-risk youth. Instead he was primarily concerned with GATE and Spanish Immersions. Those are two very important programs, but he’s clearly in those instances catering to the establishment and the gifted rather than trying to help the lesser gifted students.

Furthermore, the teacher’s association felt he played games in his negotiations. Following a budget negotiation agreement with the DTA in 2000, Saylor strongly opposed a pay increase that had been negotiated and was approved by the school board with a 4-1 vote (Saylor the lone dissenter). In what would become standard Saylor fashion, he spoke from three pages of prepared remarks (something he now does on a regular basis): "noted that he has voted in favor of every contract between the school district and the DTA over the past five years, but said that "in good conscience" he could not vote for this one." (Source: Davis Enterprise). This of course followed his failure to gain endorsement in his reelection bid and during a time of huge budget surplusses for the district that the other members voted to pass onto the teachers. In short, he was not a great friend to the union.

More recently, the issue of Target came forward. Newly elected Councilman Lamar Heystek, wanted to have a discussion agendized on whether there should be union reuquirements for Target. Target is a notoriously anti-union corporation. They’ve strongly opposed unionization and have been union-busters. In the anti-Target campaign you will see Bill Camp and the Sacramento Central Labor Council prominently featured. They had requested a hearing on this, the majority on the council opposed agendizing this. Sue Greenwald attacked them as anti-union. Both Souza and Asmundson defended their opposition but stated their support of union. However, Saylor was silent on this issue.

Saylor of course, has aspirations for higher office, but you wonder whether a Democrat can win the nomination for Assembly without strong labor backing. We shall see. Regardless, Saylor’s labor record leaves a lot to be desired and the those listening to the speech had to be left wondering where his loyalties lie, because while he said the right thing, there was no passion and no conviction behind them. Regardless labor leaders will not forget his continued opposition to their crucial issues.

---Doug Paul Davis reporting