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LOS ANGELES (AP) â¿¿ California voters reaffirmed their support for unions in defeating a provision that would have banned the way labor traditionally raises money to fund political activity.
The defeat of Proposition 32 became clear early Wednesday. With 75 percent of precincts reporting, Californians voted 55 percent against the measure, compared to 45 percent in support.
Following up on recent efforts to dilute the strength of unions in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere, business interests and wealthy Republicans had contributed tens of millions of dollars to pass Proposition 32. California's major labor groups responded with equal force, spending at least $75 million to defeat it.
"By soundly rejecting Proposition 32, the voters of our state said no to a deceptive initiative written by wealthy special interests, for wealthy special interests," Lou Paulson, chairman of the No on Prop 32 campaign, said in a statement.
Across the country, government workers have been facing political pressure to roll back pension and retiree health care benefits that in many cases are much more generous than those received by their private-sector counterparts and are straining state and municipal budgets.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed a right-to-work law in February banning unions from collecting mandatory fees for representation, and labor suffered a defeat in Wisconsin earlier this year when Republican Gov. Scott Walker defeated a recall challenge following his push to limit collective bargaining rights for most public workers.
Proposition 32 would have prohibited corporations and unions from collecting money for state political activities through paycheck deductions. It would have hit unions hardest because corporations do not typically deduct money from employee pay for political activities.
California voters rejected similar ballot questions in 2005 and 1998.
The initiative would have gone further by prohibiting unions and corporations from making donations directly to state candidates. It would not stop corporations, the wealthy or unions from spending unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns through so-called independent expenditure committees.