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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 22 (1994)

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Labor Research Review, Volume 1, Number 22 (1994)

Labor and Political Action


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    LRR Focus: Labor Party Advocates
    Johnson, J.J. (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] For more than a decade, Tony Mazzocchi, Presidential Assistant of the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union, has traversed the nation as the principal organizer of the Labor Party Advocates. His message: "For the past ten years, I have openly declared my belief that unless the trade union movement in this country seizes the political initiative and organizes a labor party, it will never again be the force it once was." Responding to this challenge, in October 1993, some 80 trade unionist's from 23 states voted to convene a founding convention. Then, in the spring of this year, LPA'S interim steering committee endorsed a proposal to hold the convention in Denver in 1995.
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    What Plant Closings Cost a Community: The Hard Data
    Ginsburg, Robert (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Because the public doesn't understand, they don't support us — or worse — they support the company that is trying to destroy us. On the other hand, if they really did understand how our fight was their fight, they will enthusiastically support us and demand that other leaders support our initiatives. This is real beginning of the process that finally gives the labor movement political strength in city councils, state legislatures, and, finally, onthe federal level. Social Cost Studies are one way to effectively show these kind of connections and interconnections. Midwest Center for Labor Research (MCLR) has been a pioneer in developing this kind of research.
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    Debate: Inside or Outside the Democratic Party
    Fletcher, Jr., Bill (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Since the New Deal, the dominant political strategy of American labor has been to work within the Democratic Party for legislative and other political aims. While sentiment for a "party of our own" has never disappeared in union circles, there has not been much serious talk of third party politics in mainstream unions for some time. Lately, however, such talk has increased.
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    Silicon Valley: Labor's High-Tech Stumping
    Dean, Amy (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Nestled 50 miles south of San Francisco, Silicon Valley has been touted as the model for the future of industrial and corporate America. More important, it could serve as a blueprint for deploying the power of labor's political action — and doing it right.
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    An AFSCME Local Transforms Local Politics
    McLeod, Sean P. (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] In the late 1980s, AFSCME Local 2703, in Merced, California, found itself in a position familiar to many union members at that time: fighting hard to keep pay and benefits from being slashed. The realization that these confrontations could occur at every contract led local members to look for ways to make local government more responsive to the working men and women of the community. Through commitment and determination — and two bitter strikes — Local 2703 held its own against a local government determined to render it powerless. Through community education and coalition, the local to (sic) achieved its first small victories. The lessons the local members learned enabled them to build an effective and influential political action committee that reaches beyond the limits of their own union contracts to pursue political change, furthers community awareness and promote coalitions across racial, ethnic, and economic barriers. Their continuing commitment to the notion that working men and women are brothers and sisters, who deserve the respect of their peers and their government leaders, has them poised to be a visible influence in the politics of Merced County.
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    Building the Road As We Travel: New Political Coalitions and the Washington State Labor Council
    Feekin, Lynn (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] New political action often involves testing ideas and approaches that do not always come together immediately or as envisioned. The political agenda of the Washington State Labor Council was formulated as one of three fronts in a comprehensive strategy to help the labor movement gain momentum over the next decade. This agenda was shaped during a tumultuous period of highs and lows in the political climate of Washington. Before 1988, the labor movement participated in politics through a traditional COPE mechanism. They turned to a more activist approach and had stunning victories by 1993, only to face a more sobering situation with business victories in 1994. LRR asked Lynn Feekin, an associate editor with the Review, to explore the recent political action experiences of the council with its Research Director, Jeff Johnson.
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    Winning Lessons from the NAFTA Loss
    Wilson, Rand (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] The period around last fall's Congressional vote on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was the best of times and the worst of times for organized labor. The threat of NAFTA's passage galvanized tens of thousands of rank-and-file union activists. Working in local coalitions with farmers, environmentalists, consumer advocates, Perot supporters, and other forces, union members waged a spirited, high-profile campaign over a public-policy question affecting millions of Americans.
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    Labor, Democrats and the Third Way
    Friedman, Ellen David (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] This past winter the Massachusetts AFL-CIO made a striking gesture. Still smarting from the battle over the North American Free Trade Agreement, the state federation decided to withhold routine PAC contributions from Congressional members who had voted for NAFTA. The decision stood in stark contrast to the many decades in which organized labor offered fairly unconditional, uncritical support to the Democratic Party and its candidates, even when Democrats failed to behave as allies. And while the Massachusetts example is singular and perhaps not an example of broader currents, it should be seen in light of other phenomena: the dissolution of rank-and-file unionists as a predictable Democratic voting block; the assertive distancing by the Democratic Party from its traditional constituencies (for example, acceding to the popular image that minorities, women, and workers are "special interests"); the emergence of H. Ross Perot and his surprising appeal to some sectors of unionized voters; and the growing interest among local labor leadership in Labor Party Advocates, a pre-labor party organization. This is a moment in which old certainties about organized labor and the Democrats are becoming less certain; it is a circumstance that progressives within the labor movement should welcome and work with.
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    The New Democratic Party and Labor Political Action in Canada
    Bernard, Elaine (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] Political humorist Barry Crimmins recently remarked that the Perot phenomenon in the last Presidential election showed the depressing state of U.S. politics. "Who would have thought/' shrugged Crimmins, "that the development of a third party would reduce political choice?" Many U.S. union progressives have envied their Canadian counterparts' success in building an enduring labor-based political party—the New Democratic Party (NDP). They look to Canada and the NDP as proof that labor and democratic socialist ideas can win a wide hearing and acceptance in North America. As U.S. activists learn about Canada's more progressive labor laws, the national system of universal publicly funded single-payer health care coverage, and the more generous and extensive entitlement programs, they naturally look to labor's political power and the role of the labor-supported New Democratic Party in winning many of these reforms and promoting progressive social change in Canada. Yet most activists in the U.S. know little about the 33-year history of the NDP, the struggles that took place within the Canadian labor movement over the party's creation, and the continuing evolution of the relationship between organized labor and the party. Americans tend to be particularly puzzled by Canadian labor activists' critical attitude towards Canada's "labor party." News of developments from north of the border over the last few years has been particularly confounding. The NDP is currently the provincial government in three out of 10 provinces —Ontario, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan —which together account for approximately 50% of Canada's population and more than half of the country's gross domestic product. Yet in spite of this powerful provincial base, in last fall's federal election, the party suffered its worst defeat since it was founded—polling a mere 6% of the popular vote and dropping from 43 to nine seats in the House of Commons. This dramatic dive in the federal party's fortunes also reflects growing labor dissatisfaction with NDP provincial governments. For the first time in three decades, the Canadian Labour Congress and many of the provincial labor federations are reconsidering their relationship to the NDP. For Americans interested in labor political action and the role of labor parties, these Canadian discussions have great relevance.
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    LRR Focus: Fifteen Ways to Avoid a Loser; Keeping Your Campaign on Track
    Nordlinger, Gary (1994-09-01)
    [Excerpt] What's wrong with this picture? You and your union work hard. You invest thousands of dollars and hours in a campaign. Yet your candidate gets clobbered. Or even worse, your candidate wins and either pretends he or she has never heard of you or whines about every piece of legislation you mention. Here are some proven ways to make sure you can get the most bang for your political bucks and make sure you aren't forgotten after Election Day.