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Labor Launches Campaign to Put Cal/OSHA on Ballot

December 15, 1987|CARL INGRAM | Times Staff Writer

SACRAMENTO — Organized labor on Monday formally started a $2-million campaign to put an initiative on the November, 1988, ballot to assure funding for the California worker safety program that Gov. George Deukmejian eliminated from the state budget.

John Henning, veteran leader of the California Labor Federation, AFL-CIO, announced plans for grass-roots union members and paid petition circulators to collect at least 800,000 signatures of voters by April 22. Only 372,178 valid signatures are needed to qualify the proposal for the general election ballot.

Henning told reporters that labor, "as our first intention," will take the unusual step of asking its traditional opponent--business--to join in the campaign. Some employer organizations opposed the governor's veto last summer.

Labor and other supporters of the Cal/OSHA industrial safety program at the work site launched a volley of legal challenges shortly after the governor's veto. Deukmejian lost an important round in October when an appellate court ruled that he had exceeded his authority. He has appealed the ruling to the state Supreme Court, where his nominees make up the majority.

In his state budget, the governor last January refused to provide the $8 million needed by Cal/OSHA, and he said the program could be administered as effectively by the federal government. Supported by labor, the Legislature restored the funds and Deukmejian vetoed them from the final budget.

Opponents of the veto, including some major employer organizations who feared that their workers' compensation costs would increase if Cal/OSHA was eliminated, have argued that the federal program is weak in pursuing offenders, does not monitor nearly 100 toxic substances that the state program did and must receive a court order to close dangerous work sites.

A spokeswoman for Deukmejian declined to comment on the proposed ballot measure.

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