Thursday, May 15, 2008

Memo to Pat Waak

The Wall Street Journal this morning has a piece on the labor backed ballot initiatives in Colorado. I have some quibbles with the article that are addressed by The American Prospect's Dean Baker here.

Dean though passes on something that I found more than a little irritating,

Some pundits suggest labor's ballot fight could aid Democrats, by energizing their supporters. However, Pat Waak, chairwoman of Colorado's Democratic Party, said she is concerned unions might cut back on donations to candidates because they are devoting so many millions to the ballot fight. "It gets down to how much money they have left," Ms. Waak said.

Mitch Ackerman, president of the service employees union in Colorado, said he hopes the union can continue backing candidates -- so long as those candidates back the union's goals.

Good for Mitch Ackerman. I would have been far less polite to Ms. Waak.

Colorado's labor unions are not an ATM machine for Colorado's Democratic Party, they do not exist to solely provide volunteers for Democratic get out the vote efforts . When the state party backs candidates that actively support labor then they should be able to count on financial and GOTV support from labor. As it stand though today Colorado's Democratic leaders have been, at best, wishy-washy on labor issues.

The WSJ article notes that Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper is already on record as voting "no" on all six of the labor backed ballot measures. Well gee, thanks a lot Hick. Glad to know which way you fall when the slightest bit of pressure is on. They also note the effort that Governor Ritter has devoted to derailing these labor bills. With friends like these, right?

If Colorado's Democratic leaders decide that for political purposes they cannot support labor initiatives fine. They have that right and they should do what they think is best but to then whine that labor may not have the cash to back your candidates is insulting to labor and insulting to the working families of Colorado that you claim to represent.

Colorado's labor unions do not exist to serve the political whims of the state party or any of the state's elected officials. They exist to serve the needs of their members and to advocate for better wages, better benefits and safer work places on their behalf.

Labor in Colorado worked hard to elect a new Democratic majority to the General Assembly in 2004. They teamed up with business to pass Referendum C in 2005. They were a major force in terms of man-power to elect Bill Ritter Governor in 2006. At what point is it labor's turn to work on behalf of their members Ms. Waak? How much longer should labor wait for local and state leaders to start addressing the concerns of their members?

Labor does not exist merely to serve the electoral needs of the state party Ms. Waak. It's time that our local and state leaders stop taking the efforts of labor for granted and start delivering for Colorado's working families or, in the very least, stop publicly undermining them. I'm sorry if that is going to be a hard lesson for some but it's a lesson that must be learned. If you work for labor then labor will work for you. Until that time don't whine and cry to Rupert Murdoch's Wall Street Journal when labor takes matters into their own hands and works on behalf of their dues paying members first.

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