August 21, 2009 Volume 110 Number 16
Washington unions plan to ‘Bring Change Home’By DON McINTOSH, Associate Editor
WENATCHEE — Washington State Labor Council delegates, meeting over three days Aug. 6-8, resolved to “bring change home,” in several senses of the phrase. State labor federation delegates want to see the Obama Administration bring “to home plate” plans for health care reform, labor law reform, and rescue of the economy. They also want to see an Obama-style spirit of change come to the state of Washington, where this year Democrats in the State Legislature catered to big business and ignored organized labor.
That betrayal was one of the most energetic themes of the convention. Delegates showed their support for a change in political practice with a boisterous chant of “not another dime.”
“Last year at this convention we were making investments in our Democratic leadership,” said WSLC President Rick Bender. “We heard their promises and we believed them.”
But top state Democrats broke those pledges when they refused to hold a vote on the federation’s priority bill, the Worker Privacy Act, Bender said.
“Boeing pulled out all the stops. They threatened to leave the state, again, and then we began to see exactly how easily our so called friends — the Democrats who promised to help us get this bill passed — we saw how easily they crumbled.”
Delegates applauded the formation of a new political action fund, DIME PAC, and representatives of WSLC affiliates stood up during the convention to pledge $100,000 to the fund, bringing its total to $300,000. WSLC spokesperson Kathy Cummings said none of that money will be going to candidates this year, but rather will accumulate in a war chest to be used to back real labor champions in the 2010 election.
The convention's keynote address was delivered by national AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, the highest ranking African-American official in the union movement. Holt Baker shared a message from President Obama to labor leaders: “Do not underestimate me on health care.” And she assured delegates that the Employee Free Choice Act will pass before the year is out.
Holt Baker also said the national AFL-CIO hopes to foster greater labor unity by inviting local affiliates of the National Education Association to join state labor federations.
Labor has erupted into infighting in recent months, with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) accused of raiding other unions. Former Northern California SEIU leader Sal Roselli, founder of a new health care union, had been scheduled to speak, but withdrew after SEIU threatened to picket and disrupt the convention.
In Wenatchee, delegates passed resolutions calling for greater labor unity, and condemning SEIU President Andrew Stern and other SEIU international leaders for raiding UNITE/ HERE, the restaurant and textile workers union.
Bob Baugh, executive director of the AFL-CIO Industrial Union Council, and Andrea Buffa of the Apollo Alliance explained cap-and-trade proposals designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and the importance of a strategy to address climate change that includes an effort to create jobs and rebuild America’s manufacturing base.
Convention delegates also passed resolutions:
The complete list of resolutions passed is available at wslc.org.
The WSLC’s organizational Mother Jones Award was presented to Machinists District Lodge 751 for its solidarity during last year’s 57-day strike at Boeing Co.
The Mother Jones Award for an individual was presented to Ken Brown, business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 73 in Spokane, for his work on behalf of members who lost their jobs when Columbia Lighting shuttered its facility and moved to Mexico.
And the WSLC’s Rising Star Award was presented to Dusty Hoerler of United Association of Plumbers and Fitters Local 32 for his dedication and participation in last fall’s Labor Neighbor political action activities.
In all, the convention brought 317 delegates and three alternates and 58 guests to the Coast Wenatchee Hotel. Highlights of the convention can be watched online at tvw.org.
© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.