|ONLINE VERSION||SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2000|
|2000 in 2000|
|Across the country, hundreds of union
members are on the ballot
If the ambulance drivers in your town wanted to join a union, who do you think would give them a fair chance to decide for themselves? A city administrator whose day job is bank vice president, or someone like Buena Vista, NJ Deputy Mayor Teresa Kelly, a Communications Workers Local 1040 member and a social worker?
Say Big Business is attacking workers' compensation in your state. Whom do you trust more to stand up for workers. A member of the Chamber of Commerce, or Mike Caputo of United Mineworkers Local 1570 and a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates?
When right-wing extremists try to muzzle the voice of working people, who do you think will speak out for you? A right-to-work-backed lawmaker, or a state senator like Frank Weddig, of Electrical Workers Local 68 in Colorado?
Advancing a Working Families Agenda - one that includes affordable health care, employer-provided pensions and a living wage for all of America's workers - depends in large part on the success of the labor movement in voter registration and get-out-the-vote drives. Bolstering those efforts will be the union members whose experience handling rent and child care - rather than stock options and limo leases - qualifies them as candidates who share workers' concerns.
That's why the AFL-CIO began its 2000 in 2000 initiative in December 1997, aiming to balance the power and strengthen the voice of working families in government by identifying and recruiting 2,000 union members to run for office. As of this writing, over 2,100 union members have been identified as currently holding office or running for office for the first time.
At least two of the union members running for office are BMWE members - Iowa's Gary L. Hart, a 24-year member from Lodge 1847 and Tim Even from South Dakota, a 20-year member of Lodge 2825. An article covering both Hart's and Even's campaigns appeared in the June issue of the BMWE JOURNAL.
In the U.S. Congress 181 members are bankers and business people,
another 172 are lawyers. It's not hard to understand why so many
lawmakers favor business interests over working families - they are
part of the corporate elite.
"To make sure working families are heard around the country will require changes at all levels of government and one of the best ways to do that is to have union members run for office," says AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
In January 1999, Melany Barnes was sworn in to the first elected office she has ever held - representative in the Kansas state legislature. It didn't take long for one of the charter members of the AFL-CIO's 2000 in 2000 initiative to make an impact. The SEIU Local 513 member introduced bills calling for pay equity, collective bargaining for public employees and stronger legal rights for workers in workers' compensation cases. That's what happens when union members hold public office.
"The most important thing," says Tony Hill, a Longshoremen Local 1408 member, Florida AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer and state representative, "is being at the table."
In January of this year, Hill used that seat at the table to help stage a 24-hour sit-in at the office of the state's lieutenant governor to protest GOP Gov. Jeb Bush's executive order to scrap Florida's affirmative action laws.
On a local level, "one human being on a city council can make a world of difference in a city. People listen to you," says UAW member Shirley Underwood. Underwood has made a difference on the Southgate, Michigan council by spearheading drives that passed resolutions backing locked-out Detroit News and Free Press workers and Steelworkers in their fight to curb foreign steel dumping.
The 1998 elections set the groundwork for 2000 in 2000 and show that the union members who hit the 2000 campaign trail can win. In 1998, the AFL-CIO identified and tracked 626 union member-candidates; of those, 420 won, with some incredible success. In Nevada, 15 of 16 union members running for state legislative seats won; 28 of 30 Rhode Island union member-candidates won; and in Maryland, all 20 union member-candidates were elected.
In the November 1999 off-year elections, the number of 2000 in 2000 successes grew:
In New Hampshire, IBT member Bob Baines defeated the incumbent Republican candidate to become the Mayor of Manchester, the largest city in the state.
In New Jersey, 24 union members representing 12 unions were elected to offices including city council, county freeholder and alderman.
In New York, 48 union members were elected from around the state to city and county councils, county clerk and school board seats.
In Ohio, 21 of 30 union member-candidates endorsed by the Cleveland AFL-CIO were elected to office, including candidates for mayor, city council, clerk of courts and school board. Nine Cincinnati union members were elected, including AFTRA member Charlie Luken, who became the city's mayor. A total of 49 Ohio union members were elected to public office.
In Washington, three union members endorsed by the King County Labor Council were elected to seats on the city council and the position of fire commissioner.