November 2011: Labor assesses election results

Washington state

Washington voters said “yes” to Costco, “no” to Tim Eyman, and “yes” again to standards for home care workers. It was a classic “mixed-result” election for the state’s labor movement, says David Groves, publications director for the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

The Costco-backed ballot measure to privatize Washington liquor sales passed by a three-to-two margin, just a year after voters rejected two similar measures. The difference? Costco, which wanted to sell liquor, put a record $23 million into the campaign. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 21 estimates nearly 1,000 members will lose family-wage jobs when the 166 state liquor stores close starting next April. Another hundred or so Teamsters will lose jobs in the state’s liquor warehouse and distribution system.

“It’s worrisome,” Groves said. “It promotes the idea for other corporate interests, that maybe they should invest in circumventing the Legislature: pay petitioners, put money into ads, and get laws changed that way.”

But Washington voters narrowly rejected Initiative 1125, an anti-tolling measure authored by perpetual union foe Tim Eyman. “1125 would have had a far more direct and negative impact on the state of the economy and jobs,” Groves said, “so that was a big win to defeat.”

And voters supported by a two-to-one margin a measure backed by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that will reinstate background checks, training, and other requirements for long-term care workers and providers.

In Southwest Washington:

  • A local sales tax measure to support C-TRAN passed 54-46 percent. The measure, backed by Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757 and the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council, increases the local sales tax by 0.2 percent to preserve C-TRAN bus and paratransit service.
  • Washington State Labor Council-endorsed Sharon Wylie defeated Craig Riley in a special election for state representative in the 49th District (Vancouver). Wylie captured nearly 56 percent of the vote. Wylie, a former two-term Oregon Democratic legislator, was appointed to the seat in April following the resignation of Rep. Jim Jacks. She will have to run for re-election again next year.
  • In Vancouver City Council races, labor-endorsed incumbents Bart Hansen and Larry Smith were handily re-elected, while challenger Anne McEnerny-Ogle lost to Bill Turlay. Turlay will succeed Pat Campbell, who lost in the August primary.
  • In LaCenter, Jim Irish was re-elected mayor with help from organized labor. In Washougal, labor-endorsed Joyce Lindsay unseated incumbent Michael Delavar on the City Council.


Oregon election results

Congressional District 1

Oregon State Sen. Suzanne Bonamici easily won the Congressional District 1 Democratic special primary with 65 percent of the vote, while Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian got 22 percent, and State Rep. Brad Witt — a union rep for United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 — placed third with 8 percent.

Bonamici had the sole endorsement of just one union, Oregon Nurses Association. Avakian was backed by Oregon Education Association, Painters, Sheet Metal Workers, Operating Engineers, Laborers, Teamsters, Communication Workers, Musicians, and Heat & Frost Insulators. Witt, a former Oregon AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer, listed support from Machinists, Steelworkers, Roofers, Bricklayers, Carpenters, Pulp and Paper Workers, Amalgamated Transit Union, Office and Professional Employees, Stage Employees, and UFCW Local 555. The Oregon AFL-CIO stayed out of the primary after no candidate was able to get a two-thirds backing at a September convention.

Bonamici will face Republican Rob Cornilles in a Jan. 31, 2012, special election to replace Democrat David Wu, who resigned mid-term.

Days after the election, both Witt and Avakian endorsed Bonamici, with Witt calling on organized labor to do the same.

“It is imperative that this Congressional District continues to be represented by a Democrat — and that Democrat is Suzanne Bonamici. I spent over three months campaigning with Sen. Bonamici as an opponent in this special primary election, and while we may not agree on every issue and may differ in style, in my opinion, she is the clear choice. I wholeheartedly support and endorse her.”

On Nov. 14, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) Executive Board voted to recommend to the Oregon AFL-CIO endorsing Bonamici.

Clackamas County

In Clackamas County, labor-backed Measure 3-388 passed by a significant margin, but the measure won’t become law because a competing measure — 3-386 — received more votes.

Measure 3-386 requires a county-wide vote before any new urban renewal areas may be created in unincorporated parts of the county. The Clackamas County Commission referred an alternative measure to voters, which would have put any new urban renewal areas before local voters (not the entire county). The Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council and NOLC endorsed the local vote measure.

With the vast majority of votes counted, 51,483 voters supported Measure 3-386, and 47,029 voters supported Measure 3-388.

Voters did approve renewal of a labor-backed public safety levy funding the Clackamas County Sheriff’s office, and a union-supported bond measure to raise $8.5 million to build a new police station in West Linn.

Washington County

A labor-endorsed five-year local option levy to support Beaverton schools was narrowly rejected by voters.


Ohio ‘citizen’s veto’

Ohio voters resoundingly overturned a law that stripped public employees of collective bargaining rights: 2,145,042 Ohioans (61.33 percent) voted against Senate Bill 5, while 1,352,366 voted for it.

SB 5, which passed the Ohio Senate by a single vote in March, eliminated the collective bargaining rights of some 350,000 public employees. Massive crowds turned out to oppose the law, which was a priority for Republican Gov. John Kasich. A union-backed coalition then collected 1.3 million signatures to refer the law to voters, and mounted a massive campaign against it.

“Ohio sent a message to every politician out there: Go in and make war on your employees rather than make jobs with your employees, and you do so at your own peril,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka. “[This] victory represents a turning point in our collective work to protect good jobs, working families, and workplace rights. But it’s more than that. It’s a long-overdue return to common sense.”

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