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Wednesday, Oct 24 2012 11:00 PM

SANDY REDING: For the health and safety of our community, vote no on Prop. 32

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    Sandy Reding

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As a Bakersfield nurse who has dedicated the past 29 years to serving my community, I am deeply alarmed at the danger posed to my patients, my neighbors and my family by Proposition 32.

Sponsors of Prop. 32 hope the misleading ads that fill our screens daily will persuade you this measure will restrict corporations and unions from influencing elections. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Prop. 32 is almost entirely an attack on unions and their ability to combine members' resources to have a voice in elections and public policy.

As a registered nurse, I have a legal and moral obligation to advocate for my patients. Our dues money helped put the law in place that limits the amount of patients each nurse can have, so that we can meet patients' needs at the bedside in a timely manner, and give the quality of care our patients deserve.

Nurses work long hours, and the laws that provide meal and rest periods, and ban mandatory overtime except in extreme conditions, help assure that the nurse at the bedside is not fatigued, and can detect subtle changes that can lead to a worsening condition. These laws benefit the community we serve, and would not be in place without our collective nurses' union voice at the legislative level.

The Californian endorsed Prop. 32 in its Oct. 7 editorial, "Yes on 32: Check undue union influence," but genuine campaign finance reform groups -- the League of Women Voters, Common Cause and Public Citizen -- all oppose Prop. 32, as do most other newspapers in California, including The Fresno Bee, The Stockton Record, the Merced Sun-Star, and the Los Angeles Times. The Fresno Bee, for example, calls the measure a "transparent power grab."

The trick Prop. 32 uses is to bar payroll deductions, the main way unions raise funds, while giving corporations, which spend on elections from their profits and general funds, mostly a free pass. Billionaires and the secretive super PACs that fail to disclose their donors are completely untouched.

As individuals, we can never hope to match the clout of big corporations, wealthy individuals or the secret committees, and for that reason we need to pool our resources. If Prop. 32 were to pass, those we all most count on, such as nurses, teachers and firefighters, would be shut out from having a counterbalance in elections and influence in Sacramento.

Every year my union, the California Nurses Association, faces a flurry of bills and proposed regulations that would roll back protections we have fought so hard to win, including safe staffing for patients, whistle-blower protection for employees who expose unsafe conditions, and improved oversight to curb hospital and nursing home abuses.

We've also worked to pass rules opposed by insurance companies on what they should cover for your premium dollar, such as allowing new mothers enough time to stay in the hospital to reduce infant deaths.

But it is never easy, and the waves of lobbyists from the well-funded hospital, insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and their allies who already have enormous clout with our elected representatives, are always daunting.

If Prop. 32 were already law, none of the patient and consumer protections and reforms California has enacted would be law today.

That's just in health care. As a parent volunteer who has served on the board of an elementary school parent-teacher organization, I have also seen firsthand what teachers deal with on a daily basis to meet the needs of their students, and how much of their own time and money they must use. We need our teachers' voices in Sacramento to fight cuts to our schools and colleges, and we need the voices of our public safety workers to act for safe police and fire response times. But we will not have it if Prop. 32 passes.

According to a nonpartisan group, California Common Sense, corporations already outspend unions by at least 3-1 to dominate elections and public policy in California. They don't need the extra help.

For all of us sick of the auction of California politics to the biggest spenders, Prop. 32 might look attractive. But it will harm all Californians and undermine the ability of nurses and other safety workers to look out for you.

That's what's at stake with Proposition 32. Please join us in voting no.

Sandy Reding of Bakersfield is an operating room registered nurse at a local hospital and a public health nurse and volunteer for the Kern Medical Reserve Corps. Another View is a critical response to a previous editorial or news story.

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