Texas Labor Chooses Issues and Candidates

AUSTIN -- The Texas AFL-CIO held its Committee on Political Education (COPE) meeting here on February 6-7. Labor leaders from across the vast state gathered to discuss the issues and candidates leading up to the March 2 primary and the November general elections.

They also took some time for vital educational workshops:

The jobs crisis brought the most attention and the most applause when speakers talked about government action to end sky-high unemployment. Mike Cavanaugh, an AFL-CIO staffer from Washington DC, outlined the problem clearly: “Unemployment is going to be sky high for the foreseeable future." He brought a big-screen presentation of the AFL-CIO’s five-point plan of government intervention into the problem. It begins with extension of unemployment benefits, then calls for the same kind of financial commitment that Congress has already devoted to bankers and big corporations.

Cavanaugh brought the message that such a plan would not happen without a gigantic labor-led fight that involved all segments of the population. He said that the AFL-CIO Executive Committee would be laying out specific plans at their next meeting toward the end of February. In his speech and in his workshop, the AFL-CIO man asked for input from all Texas unionists.

Among the seven resolutions passed at the end of the conference, two were specifically about jobs. Resolution number one ended, “BE IT RESOLVED, that the Texas AFL-CIO calls for a national policy to remedy under-employment of youth. Youth employment is a key predictor of future success for the individual and the community, and directly correlates with youth violence and school dropout rates.”

Resolution number six called strongly for government action: “NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention call on Congress to support the AFL-CIO program to return Americans to work; and BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the delegates endorse quick action on job creation -- which is not to be confused with blind subsidies to employers who do not follow through on job creation promises. America needs good jobs now.”

Among the candidates for statewide audience that were endorsed, former AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Linda Chavez Thompson seemed to be the favorite. The Texas AFL-CIO claimed credit for having convinced her to run for one of the two highest offices in the state, Lieutenant Governor. The other highest office is Speaker of the House, but he or she is elected by the representatives on the first day of the legislative session. The antiquated Texas Constitution leaves the governor in a less powerful position.

Texas labor is especially concerned about getting a big turnout in November because they are close to re-taking the Texas House where U.S. congressional districts will be re-districted. Texans expect to take at least three, but probably four, more seats in the U.S. Congress after the census figures are known.

Here are the endorsements:

Governor, Bill White
Lt Gov, Linda Chavez-Thompson
Attorney General: Barbara Ann Radnofski
Agricultural Commissioner: Hank Gilbert
Railroad Commissioner: Jeff Weems
Texas Supreme Court, Place 3: Jim Sharp
Texas Supreme Court Place 5: Bill Moody
Texas Supreme Court Place 9: Blake Baily
Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 6: Keith Hampton
Chair of Texas Democratic Party: Boyd Richie
They also recommended the local endorsements from the Central Labor Councils