Members of the California Nurses Association say they will be coming to the Atherton home of Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman on today (July 15) at around noon to protest Whitman's proposal to cut 40,000 state jobs if she is elected.
A campaign flier paid for by the nurses association alleges that Whitman has "declared war" on California nurses by writing an "imperious" letter "demanding" contact information for the association's membership, then buying the list and "bombarding" the nurses with direct mail, and conducting a "fake telephone poll."
The rally will gather at 11 a.m. at Canada College, 4200 Farm Hill Blvd. in Woodside, according to the flier.
(The Whitman campaign has announced that, at the time of the Thursday protest in front of her Atherton home, Whitman herself will be meeting with employees of the Maglite Flashlights Corp. in Ontario, Calif.).
In the flier, the nurses association alleges that Whitman's campaign sent "spies" to the association headquarters to create "a ruckus."
The allegation refers to a press conference in the nurses association's Oakland headquarters, spokesman Shum Preston said in a phone interview.
Two people claiming to be reporters for the school newspaper at the University of California at Berkeley were allowed in, Preston said, but the newspaper, in response to a call to authenticate the reporters, said it had not assigned anyone to cover the event.
An unauthorized video of the conference showed up on Youtube, Preston said.
"I don't even know what that would be," Whitman campaign spokeswoman Sarah Pompei said when asked to comment on the spying allegation. "It just seems like one of the tricks of the trade that they're using to misrepresent Meg and what she stands for. ... We often have volunteers that go to certain things and film them," she added.
As for Whitman's pledge to cut 40,000 state jobs, Pompei said that the plan is to reduce the state workforce through attrition. "It is very important that we get workforce levels to what we can afford," she said.
"That's a lot of people through attrition in this economy," said nurses association Co-President Deborah Burger in an interview, adding that Whitman had implied cutting 40,000 jobs during her primary campaign.
"Why would she say that," Burger asked, "and then back off and say it would be attrition? Which Meg are we going to get?"
A visit to the Whitman's campaign website confirmed that the campaign asked for a membership list and did conduct a phone poll of 303 nurses. The polling company was Hill Research Associates, a Texas-based company with clients nationwide, according to its website.
"That wasn't a big enough sample to really reflect a genuine survey," Burger said. "The questions were not what you'd normally see in a political poll. They were more of a union-busting kind of questions."
The survey included questions related to the association's use of union dues, whether its political stance is "too radical and over-involved in partisan politics," and whether it speaks for all California nurses, according to the Whitman website.
An excerpt from a letter from the Whitman campaign to the nurses association dated June 18 states: "Our campaign would like to mail each member of your union a letter from Meg explaining her positions on critical issues facing California, including the vital issues surrounding health care. ... We hope that you will decide to let us make an unfiltered case to your hardworking membership ... and do not fear giving your rank-and-file members access to both parties' ideas. Only good can come out of such a free and unfettered dialogue."
Asked to indicate to this reporter the instances of an "imperious" and "demanding" tone, Burger replied: "I guess we probably have a different take on it. I was really kind of shocked and puzzled that she had the right to demand that we turn over our membership to her."
Whitman, a former chief executive officer, is "used to getting membership lists just by asking for them," she added. "Our nurses trust us not to give their information to anyone else."
And writing separately to the nurses implies that they are "too stupid" to figure out what Whitman is saying on their own, Burger added. "It really is insulting to nurses (to allege) that we're blocking nurses from getting information on Meg Whitman."