Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Organized labor will work to elect progressive Democrats

Organized labor knows that money is too tight to spend on would-be Democrats. Despite holding a majority in both chambers of the state legislature, plus the governor’s office, Democratic lawmakers so severely disappointed labor groups during the 2009 legislative session that the groups have either stopped or significantly reduced their donations to committees supporting Democratic legislative candidates.

This behavior signals a change in labor’s campaign strategy. Typically, labor groups donate several hundred thousand dollars a year to Democratic caucus political action committees which spread the donations amongst all Democratic legislative candidates. Labor’s new strategy is more targeted. This year they plan to only invest in those candidates who have recently supported labor issues, and to actively oppose those whom they consider to be too conservative and who have come down on the wrong side of their issues.

From the Seattle Times:
Instead of contributing to the caucus campaign committees, the Labor Council created its own PAC called Don't Invest In More Excuses, or DIME — a play on the e-mail that killed the worker-rights bill. So far, the PAC has raised more than $280,000.
The Washington legislature killed most of labor’s priority bills last session, a list that included the Worker Privacy Act, improvements to the unemployment insurance program, and collective bargaining bills. Last year’s nine billion dollar state budget deficit hit state workers particularly hard. Workers sacrificed by taking job-cuts, pension deferrals, and increased health care costs.

Labor groups will be watching Olympia closely during the legislative session starting in January 2010. At issue is how lawmakers address a new budget shortfall approaching two billion dollars. From the Seattle Times:
Democratic lawmakers who don't support a tax increase and fall short on other labor issues could find themselves without union support. Or even become a target.

A request has been sent out to hire political consultants to help oversee "challenges against incumbents who are barriers to progress, supporting progressive candidates in open seat races, and defending progressive champions in swing districts," according to a copy of the request obtained by The Seattle Times.

"We will likely target 8-10 legislative races for various levels of activity, including 3-5 core races that will involve substantial full-scale independent campaigns," the request says.
If you’re interested in finding out how well your legislators supported labor issues, take a look at the Washington State Labor Council’s 2009 Legislative Report.

This change in support is a good object lesson for Washington's elected officials: If you take your supporters for granted, you may pay the price come election time.

While some may consider labor groups to be just another special interest, they are more than that. In addition to donating money, labor volunteers are part of the grassroots efforts that elect Democratic candidates. And when it comes right down to it, Washington unions are made up of hundreds of thousands of voters, the people who put lawmakers into office in the first place.


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