The truth is, most Texans cannot see a penny's bit of difference between the former governor, Ann Richards, and the current one of Georgie. Of course, maybe with a microscope, or a Texas liberal's bleeding heart??? Not enough prison guards? Can you imagine?
Where is Ralph? If anyone sees him, please have him call his alleged supporters at AFL-CIO Headquarters. Let's see, Molly and Michael, am I supposed to vote for Nader in New Mexico, and Gore in Texas, or is it the other way around? Can you get anymore independent than this?
'Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are absolute champions of working families.......' Here's Mr. AFL-CIO Reform speaking. Some things just seem to never change.
Tony Abdo __________________________________ Chávez-Thompson rails against Bush By Gary Martin Express-News Staff Writer
LOS ANGELES Linda Chávez-Thompson arrived in San Antonio 30 years ago to organize garbage workers. This week, she will sound the rallying cry for organized labor's nationwide efforts to elect Democrat Al Gore president.
Chávez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO, minces no words when it comes to her commitment to keep the Republican presidential nominee, Gov. George W. Bush, from ascending to the office once held by his father.
"I'm going to work my como se llama off to make sure we don't have a son-of-a-Bush in the White House," said Chávez-Thompson, who at age 56 remains a feisty and passionate defender of the working class.
"I give white hairs, I don't get them," quipped Chávez-Thompson, who will use her speaking role at the Democratic National Convention to talk about education, immigration, health care and other issues important to women.
She has traveled coast-to-coast for the Democratic National Committee to denounce Bush's record in the Lone Star State.
A member of the "Texas Truth Squad" that attended the recent Republican National Convention in Philadelphia,
Chávez-Thompson accuses the governor of failing to help working families and Hispanics, while favoring policies that benefit big business and the wealthy. According to Chavez-Thompson, Bush tried to raid the teacher's retirement fund to provide a tax cut, failed to hire adequate numbers of prison guards and seems intent on "wrecking the education system."
"He speaks Spanish, but what has he done for Hispanics?" she asked. "Agricultural workers in Texas still make $3.35 an hour."
The claims were dismissed by the Bush campaign.
"This is standard, silly, partisan attack rhetoric," said Ray Sullivan, a Bush campaign spokesman in Austin.
"The truth is, Gov. Bush has made great strides for average Texas working families," Sullivan said, listing increased funding for education, pay increases for teachers and prison guards, reducing taxes on homeowners and "keeping our economy strong."
The sharp exchange between labor and Republicans underscores a decades-long ideological battle.
The daughter of a West Texas sharecropper from Lubbock, Chávez-Thompson, at age 10, hulled cotton for 30 cents a day alongside her parents. The absence of safety and health regulations spurred her years later to take an interest in the labor movement.
In 1967, Chávez-Thompson was given a job as a secretary for the AFL-CIO local. She was given the title of coordinator for victim's assistance when a tornado struck Lubbock in 1970.
Impressed with the charity of the AFL-CIO, she moved to San Antonio to take a job as an organizer for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Her first task was to organize garbage haulers. In addition to battling politicians at City Hall, she ran into other barriers. "I literally had to show the wherewithal, the gumption, to be accepted as a woman much less a Mexican-American woman who knew how to work hard, knew what she was doing and was crazy enough to work in a man's world," she recalled.
Over the next 20 years, the determined organizer scrapped with the city of San Antonio and Bexar County as she sought collective bargaining agreements for employees, often matching wits with competing unions, such as the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas.
"She's a tough lady. She had to be tough to survive," said Rep. Ciro Rodríguez, D-San Antonio, who served on the South San School District board then, before being elected to the Texas Legislature and then Congress.
Union leaders in the 1970s mostly were men.
"It was a tough area. Those guys could eat your lunch," Rodríguez said.
Her recruitment of women and minorities to the union played a part in her election as vice president of AFSCME in 1988 and 1992, and executive director of AFSCME Council 42 in 1995, the statewide chapter.
Those battles helped prepare Chávez-Thompson for the biggest challenge of her career. With growing disenchantment among AFL-CIO members, she joined John Sweeney and Richard Trumka in a revolt against entrenched leadership at the national level.
Sweeney defeated President Thomas Donahue, who rose to the top of the organization when Lane Kirkland stepped down in 1995, amid scrutiny of lavish spending on perks and other luxuries paid for by union dues.
Trumka was elected treasurer and Chávez-Thompson became executive vice president.
In one of the first orders of business, the AFL-CIO leadership assessed a 15-cent dues increase on 13 million members of the federation's 78 unions to raise a war chest to defeat House Republicans.
The National Republican Congressional Committee filed unsuccessful complaints with the Federal Election Commission, claiming the dues increase was for political purposes.
"Big labor bosses ... have forced a dues increase down the throats of working unionized Americans to fund a war against the Republicans," Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, said at the time.
During the primaries this spring, Bush called for "paycheck protection," a law that would force the unions to get the permission of each worker to spend dues on political causes.
The GOP in this election cycle also is calling on business groups and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to help with presidential and down-ballot races.
Labor hopes to be able to spend up to $50 million to counter the $100 million that big business has pledged to spend during this election cycle.
More importantly, Chávez-Thompson wants to mobilize the AFL-CIO's 13 million members to vote for Gore.
"We don't have the kind of money the Republican Party has maybe half," she said. "But the important part is people. We have to get them excited about this candidate, this team, the issues they care about.
"You would be surprised at the operation we have in place around the country." Gore, who supported permanent trade relations with China, has had problems with labor. Although the AFL-CIO endorsed him last year, the Teamsters led by James Hoffa has wavered.
The vice president last week received a much-need endorsement from the United Auto Workers, key to a Democratic victory in the swing states of Michigan and Ohio. A poll by Zogby International found that four in 10 union members would consider voting for Green Party candidate Ralph Nader rather than Gore.
"It doesn't mean they would vote for Nader. It does mean there is room to grow," pollster John Zogby said. Chávez-Thompson, who fought against the China trade pact, said the unions would throw their support to Gore before Labor Day.
"The best place to go is Al Gore," Chavez-Thompson said. "If we can get 90 percent of what we want for working families, and we don't get that other 10 percent, we can disagree. We can fight on the congressional floor to get that." The convention this week will spotlight Democratic efforts to help working families achieve health care, education for their children, a stronger Social Security and Medicare, she said.
Chávez-Thompson said she would bring the same dedication to the presidential race that she brought to organizing garbage haulers in San Antonio some 30 years ago.
"All workers would benefit from having a president who knows how they feel," she said. "Once we get out of the convention, there is nothing more in my life than to make sure Al Gore is elected." gmartin at express-news.net 08/12/2000 ______________________________ Despite differences, labor enthusiastic for Gore By Dan Freedman Hearst Newspapers
LOS ANGELES Despite huge differences with Vice President Al Gore on international trade, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told boisterous union members at a pep rally Sunday that Gore and his running mate, Joseph Lieberman, "are absolute champions of working families, our agenda and our unions."
Sweeney pledged a full-fledged grass-roots effort to get his organization's 13.5 million members out to vote for the Gore-Lieberman ticket.
"Brothers and sisters, this is the beginning of a historic week for our movement and for the Democratic Party," Sweeney told more than 800 unionists waving signs saying "Union Families for Gore" and "Working Families for Gore."
"We'll be the leading advocates for working family issues here at the convention and throughout the election, and our words will be heard," Sweeney said. "Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are absolute champions of working families, our agenda and our unions."
Absent was any reference to the principal issue dividing the two candidates and organized labor: more free trade, which the candidates favor and the unions do not. As happened when Bill Clinton ran in 1992 and 1996, Gore and labor have agreed to disagree on this issue and focus on the large number of issues where they do agree.
Notwithstanding labor's protests, Clinton, Gore and Republicans on Capitol Hill have stood together on lowering trade barriers, from the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993 to permanent normal trade relations with China, approved by the House last May. The AFL-CIO and unions outside it such as the United Automobile Workers view these agreements as licenses to American manufacturers to export union jobs.
But labor officials insist that Gore is significantly closer to them on trade than Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the Republican nominee. Gore favors negotiating labor union rights and environmental protection into international trade agreements, which is "very close to our position on trade," Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, said in an interview with the Hearst Newspapers on Sunday. Trumka accused Bush of favoring "unfettered trade" without provisions seeking to improve working conditions and human rights overseas.
"He won't give us a seat at the table," Trumka said.
By contrast, Gore and labor agree on how to preserve Social Security and on creating a Medicare prescription drug plan, raising the minimum wage and opposing government vouchers for private schools. Gore also supports labor on preserving federal legislation that requires contractors to pay prevailing wage rates to workers on government-funded projects. Often that rate is synonymous with the union wage scale. Bush supports letting states make the decision on wage rates. Because of Gore's record supporting labor in his 16 years in Congress and seven and a half years as vice president, labor is much more comfortable with him that it was with Clinton in 1992, Trumka said. Gore "supports working people in thought, word and voting deed," he added. About 1,500 delegates at the convention are union members, about 30 percent of the 4,368 total. Bush leads Gore by 10 points or more in most polls. Union members at the rally admitted that their enthusiasm for Gore was guided in part by their fear of a Republican victory. "If Bush gets in, we're in trouble," said Barbara Biesterfeld, a retired state hospital nurse and alternate delegate from Tacoma, Washington.
Labor is a shadow of what it was in the 1950s and 1960s, when about 35 percent or more of the nation's workforce belonged to unions. Now 14 percent of the work force belongs to unions. But since 1997, total union membership, including unions outside the AFL-CIO, has risen from 16.1 million to 16.5 million. Still, that number is slightly under the 1994 level of 16.7 organized workers.