By Jim Lane
Reports from the three large Texas cities which held local elections May 9 are good news for labor.
The Dallas AFL-CIO endorsed 6 candidates for City Council. Five of them won outright and the sixth goes into a runoff with the highest vote count. Far more interesting was labor’s call for a “no” vote on two propositions.
Proposition One came about when one of the city’s richest private hotel owners decided to stop city government from building a hotel. A “yes” vote for Proposition One was against the hotel and any future City efforts.
The other proposal was sponsored by the UNITE-HERE union after the mayor rebuffed their request for “card check” – the easier way to organize workers – for new hotel employees. A “yes” vote on their Proposition Two would have stipulated that anyone with 500 petition signatures could force an election to prevent the City from spending more than $1 million on any stimulation project. “Yes” on Proposition Two would have stopped the hotel and, according to Mayor Leppert, crippled city government for all time. UNITE-HERE is greatly respected among Dallas Latinos, but they failed to convince the rest of the labor movement to support them, and the Dallas Labor Council, looking at the economic crisis and the need for jobs, decided to support the city’s hotel.
The money gushed into the fight. One might argue that the hotel idea has already enriched the Dallas economy through the printing and mailing of almost daily color brochures! Professional campaigners plumbed the depths of public manipulation in every kind of media. The issue of “democratic control” versus “private enterprise,” already a big national issue, was especially hot in Dallas! Mayor Leppert was personally slandered in the campaign, but not as seriously as UNITE-HERE, which was continually referred to as the “big union from New York.”
UNITE-HERE’s effort came to a clear loss, although the next mayor they ask for “card check” on city projects might think twice about it. Private hotel owners and the big money probably blame their narrow loss on low turnout.
In San Antonio, our PWW correspondent reports that labor is celebrating the election of Julian Castro on his second effort. “He was by far the most pro-labor candidate... possibly the ONLY pro-labor candidate. The two other greatest hopefuls were in a kind of contest to prove which was the most anti-labor,” says our good reporter.
In Austin, Carole Strayhorn came in third in a field of five running for mayor. Strayhorn is not popular with Texas labor because she left the Republican Party in 2006 to help split labor’s vote in the Democratic Primary for Governor. The labor-backed candidate will be mayor of Austin.In tiny Hearne, Texas, the District Attorney, now infamously associated with the villain in the movie, “American Violet,” was not up for re-election. But civil rights may have gained, because their new mayor has a Latino surname. Also, 676 voters, 69% of the total, voted to allow liquor in the city.