The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce: Oppressed Underdog?

by on September 8, 2014 · 2 comments

in Economy, History, Media, Politics, San Diego


A Pathetic Attempt to Re-Write History

Jerry Sanders 7By Jim Miller

Recently UT-San Diego sat down with San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Jerry Sanders for an interview so he could lay out the Chamber’s “new” aggressive political action plan.

During the course of the interview Sanders was steadfast in his insistence that the Chamber exists to respond to the mythic hegemony of labor in San Diego politics.

For instance, when discussing the perceived need for the recent referendums on affordable housing, the Barrio Logan plan, and the minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance he explained:

We’re consistently fighting with labor and labor has always been good at this. They have a steady funding source coming in and I think we’ve convinced business that we can be effective with less money, but we need to be together on all these issues. So that’s really what all this is about right now. In our repositioning, we’ll be telling chamber members and non-chamber members that as we move forward it’ll be more in these areas, very aggressive political clout, working with the folks in the office, but when we have folks in office who are going to go in a different direction, we’ll make sure that the citizens of San Diego get an opportunity to weigh in on those issues.

Understand, of course, that your “weighing in” during the elections that put the City Council in office to govern doesn’t really count when your elected government takes actions not duly approved of by the Chamber. And know too that the fact that most people approve of the minimum wage and earned sick days ordinance by a large margin in the polls is also clearly a deeply undemocratic phenomenon that needs to be corrected by CEO Sanders and friends.

Note also (and ignore) the other instance of stunning double-think where Sanders (who successfully championed Proposition B with Carl DeMaio) is careful to assert that it has always been labor that is “good at” fighting and the innocent folks in the business community are just now waking up to stand up to their oppressors, the working poor.

If all this weren’t bad enough, the last exchange is of particular note for its complete erasure of the actual history of the city. Brace yourself.

Q: What’s interesting in this story really is the idea of organizing, because what labor has done is they’re highly organized by their nature and then become formidable and the business side is disorganized, right? So you guys are trying to bring strategic organization to this group of highly motivated people.

A: Right. And I think it’s starting to work. I mean we (won) the Kevin Faulconer campaign (for mayor). You know people (were upset) and all because a group of people got together and decided who was going to run for mayor. Labor does that every single time. This is the first time they were not successful [emphasis mine]. We rallied around with the money where it needed to be as all these business organizations, as I said, we work with five other political action committees, BIA and AGC and Restaurant Association and Downtown PAC so we can do the positive campaigning. We did TV, we did the walking campaign which I think was really the key for that. So, you know, I think the groups are coming together now realizing if we’re going to create a balance on the council and we’re going to create a balance in the political environment that the business side has to come together to work on that.

Yes, you got that right. Sanders is actually asserting in the city’s paper of record that the Faulconer victory was “the first time they [read labor] were not successful” in picking the mayor and that the goal of the Chamber is now to achieve a “balance on the council” and change the “political environment” that has, according to him, favored the 800 pound gorilla that is San Diego labor over our fair city’s beleaguered business sector since we’ve been electing mayors.

It’s worth repeating: Sanders is claiming that Faulconer’s election is “the first time” labor has not prevailed in a San Diego mayor’s race. The fact that the complete opposite is true doesn’t seem to bother him a bit (Hey, he seems to have forgotten his own tenure, right?).

Jerry Sanders 6No, he’s not stupid; he’s just a con man hoping to manipulate a gullible public into thinking that the interests that the Chamber represents are just a poor, disorganized bunch of novices who have never really played a serious role in our city’s politics. It’s only now that their backs are against the wall, Sanders would have you believe, that the underdogs at the Chamber are rising to confront the dire threats posed by affordable housing, the residents of Barrio Logan, and minimum wage workers.

Indeed to even begin to take this line seriously one needs to forget the fact that San Diego has always had less union density and consequently local labor has had much less political power than their cohorts in California’s other big cities. One must also ignore the inconvenient truth that America’s Finest City has long been considered a pro-business, Republican stronghold until shifting demographics only quite recently painted it purple.

Really, Sanders’s argument here is just a profoundly sloppy, laughably silly proposition.

But (big shock) there was not even a cursory fact check or follow up by the UT-SD to challenge this whopper of a historical misrepresentation.

If Sanders’s rhetoric sounds familiar, it is precisely the line Republicans used during the last mayoral campaign. As I noted then, this blithe rewriting of history was designed to support Faulconer’s historically challenged and wildly misleading claims about pensions, the effect of Proposition B, and the history of the power elite in San Diego.

And now, again, it’s clear that CEO Sanders wants to convince the public that San Diego has been dominated by labor unions for the last century rather than the moneyed interests that have served as a shadow government for most of our history.

That’s how they pull off the big bamboozle–by selling you right wing mythology as history with the hope that you aren’t the sharpest tool in the shed.

But, of course, the actual history of San Diego gives the lie to the fantasy of “times when union cronies ruled San Diego,” as the old K-Faulc commercial put it.

Anyone who knows even a little about the history of San Diego understands that the suggestion that our city has been run by a union machine is a joke. Indeed, nothing could be further from the truth, but, once again, the Chamber et al are counting on you being easily misled.

In Under the Perfect Sun, Mike Davis, Kelly Mayhew and I observe that San Diego is a city that “many conservatives extol as a utopia of patriotism and free enterprise.” Indeed it was Nixon’s “lucky city” but, as we note, “San Diego has too frequently been a town wide open to greed but closed to social justice. Like its Sunbelt siblings—Orange County, Phoenix, and Dallas—it has a long history of weak and venal city halls dominated by powerful groups of capitalist insiders. ‘Private Government’ has long overshadowed public politics.”

But if you need to deceive the public while you are in the process of shamelessly undermining the duly elected representative government of the city in an effort to take a modest minimum wage increase and earned sick days away from the working poor, it’s always useful to feign the role of the underdog fighting the big union bullies.

Would it be piling on to mention that even prominent figures in the local business community have come out in favor of the minimum wage and earned sick days, making Sanders’s characterizations even more suspect?

Last time I checked, Irwin Jacobs and Mel Katz don’t work for the AFL-CIO.

So not only Sanders’s history, but also his cartoonish Big Labor versus Beleaguered Business dichotomy falls apart upon the most superficial examination.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to get away with this baloney when the city’s only major newspaper serves as your loyal lapdog.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

nadin September 8, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Ok, I need to find it, it is so small… that damn violin. I guess we really need to feel very sorry for the poor beleaguered Chamber that has been running city politics for as long as I remember.

Damn, I think the birds ate the violin…


Marilyn September 8, 2014 at 4:24 pm

Am I living in a “Company town” where ordinary citizens are the enemy? It appears so.
Unions are more democratic, ie, organized than the big money men would like, so their mouthpieces return to the anti-union refrain to attack the democratic process.
And, if that doesn’t work, hire a poor slob to gather signatures while lying to shoppers about the purpose of their petitions.


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