You may not have seen the census report indicating that labor’s numbers went up in 2017. Also, the Los Angeles Times unionized! This could be a great year for working people!
I spent the weekend January 19-22 in Austin listening to speeches and attending workshops with the Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE).
There were over 400 labor leaders, young and old. Speakers included candidates for governor of Texas, international union presidents, and one of the top national AFL-CIO leaders, Liz Schuler. I’ve put summaries on http://tx.aflcio.org/dallas and on http://texasretiredamericans.org plus several Facebook pages.
I was delighted!
The endorsement process was very telling. To begin with, they refused to endorse the one-and-only Democrat running for the U.S. Senate. President Rick Levy said that labor just didn’t want to be taken for granted, and the guy hadn’t shown up! Next, they skipped over the sharp-talking right-centrist governor’s candidate with the most money and the most fund-raising ability so they could endorse a gay Latina!
When the endorsement proposals were presented, one delegate got up to say that we shouldn’t be so incautious in endorsing her. He didn’t say why, but the next 4 or 5 speakers blasted homophobia, sexism, racism, and every other kind of chauvinism they could think of! Then the congregation ratified the endorsement overwhelmingly!
Doesn’t sound like the old labor movement at all. In the old days, they were reluctant to endorse anybody in primary elections. They just waited until the Democrats had decided, then carefully chose a few candidates that they thought might win with or without their help. Then they went through the motions of helping, mostly with surreptitious financial donations that their members hardly ever found out about.
Several speakers, including the hired professional political science experts, talked about a new way of doing things. It was actually kind of hard for me to understand what they meant. As far as I understand anything, they are still going to be relying on phone banking and door-to-door canvassing of union members only. They just plan to do a lot more of it and they plan to start “in March instead of October.” (I enjoyed telling them that my organization started in early January, last week!)
But there may be some qualitative differences. They may rely on town hall meetings and even home meetings more than the grueling long-distance canvassing that we ordinarily do. They may try to discourage donations to candidates in favor of using the money to pay union activists to work on our own electoral program. That would be a really big difference!
I’m not positive about what they will end up actually doing. Everything unions do is done in government straight-jackets, so they may not be able to vary their tactics as much as they would like.
It Feels Different, It Feels Good!
I’ve been to many union political conferences and I’ve been around the union movement at least 40 years. I don’t remember ever seeing so much enthusiasm. I don’t remember so much unity. I don’t remember ever having so much confidence in the leadership. I don’t remember hearing so many things that made sense.