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05.11.2010

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See the entire 2010 WSLC Legislative Report
 

 
 

Things have changed
Incumbents' evaluations now include sponsorship, labor advocacy

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By BENJAMIN LAWVER
WSLC Political Director
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After the 2009 session, when laborís agenda was not only ignored but also attacked by the Democratic majority caucuses, the Washington State Labor Councilís affiliated unions instituted a complete review of the organizationís political program.

One of the key changes adopted was to establish a more comprehensive system of evaluating the performance of incumbent state legislators, given that voting records donít always explain who is truly advocating for working families or opposing their interests. This is necessary because it has become common practice for caucus leaders to "protect" their members by either denying votes on important working family legislation or by blocking recorded roll-call votes on the floor.

WHAT HASN'T CHANGED

By Constitution, delegates representing the affiliated unions of the Washington State Labor Council will vote on which candidates and ballot measures to endorse. A two-thirds majority is required for endorsement. All delegates will be given a comprehensive Total Point Score for each incumbent legislator, which includes all of the information in this publication plus the CLC Process (worth 20%), which was not yet available at press time.

Thatís why, beginning this year, the Washington State Labor Councilís Legislative Voting Records will also include candidate scores for bill sponsorship, caucus and floor advocacy, and community support for laborís activities. These additional scores, along with the local-level questionnaire, interview and recommendation process conducted by the Central Labor Councils, will all be considered by delegates considering WSLC election endorsements at our C.O.P.E. (Committee on Political Education) Convention on May 15 and any additional endorsements that may occur at the WSLC Constitutional Convention on Aug. 9-12 in Tacoma.

The candidatesí Total Point Scores will be apportioned based on the following formula:

2010 VOTING RECORD (15%) -- This yearís voting record on selected bills and amendments supported or opposed by the WSLC.

2009 VOTING RECORD (15%) -- Last yearís voting record on selected bills and amendments supported or opposed by the WSLC.

LIFETIME VOTING RECORD (30%) -- The WSLC Voting Record for the incumbentís entire career in the State Legislature.

SPONSORSHIP (5%) -- Legislators are awarded up to 5 points for sponsoring or co-sponsoring pro-worker legislation. They can also receive negative points for sponsoring anti-worker bills. Although they canít sponsor bills, the House Speaker and Senate Majority Leader both receive 5 points because they are instrumental in moving legislation.

ADVOCACY (10%) -- Up to 10 points for actively advocating for labor-supported legislation in caucus among other legislators and in floor speeches, and for accessibility to labor.

The following two criteria are not included in the printed Legislative Report and Voting Record because regional Central Labor Councils were still conducting their evaluations at press time. They will be posted with the online voting records as soon as they are available:

COMMUNITY (5%) -- Up to 5 points for publicly advocating for pro-worker issues and participating in labor events in their districts.

C.L.C. PROCESS (20%) -- Incumbents will be evaluated based on the responses to questionnaires and candidate interviews conducted by Central Labor Councils.

The changes donít stop there. The WSLC has also developed a system to more strategically target campaign contributions and grassroots political efforts.

In the past, the WSLC and many of its affiliates have made significant contributions to caucus campaign committees and to incumbent legislators who were not facing serious election challenges. Those contributions are often used by caucus leadership to fund activities that benefit individual legislators who work against the interests of our members.

To make sure that only those legislators who stand up for working families receive our financial support, the WSLC created the "Donít Invest In More Excuses" Political Action Committee (DIME PAC) for unions to target campaign contributions more strategically.

Itís up to the rank-and-file members and elected officers of every union to decide how to make their political contributions. Many have chosen to contribute to DIME PAC rather than to political party funds. Those contributing affiliates will decide how to target DIME PAC contributions and expenditures.

That said, the value of laborís endorsement has never been about money. Unions canít compete with the cash that corporate interests pump into campaigns at the state and federal levels. Laborís strength has always been in its members, who are widely seen as the "foot soldiers" for many political campaigns. Thatís because of our long, proud history of effective political volunteerism and activism, not because of our campaign contributions. Like the monetary support from DIME PAC, the grassroots election activities of our successful Labor Neighbor program will be targeted to elect champions for working families, not just to build political majorities.

In addition, there is renewed interest among some affiliated unions to more aggressively pursue ballot initiatives that take workersí issues directly to voters -- as labor did in leading the charge for our historic indexed minimum wage. Look for news on this front soon.

All of these changes are part of a long-term strategy to ensure that laborís political efforts are more effectively targeted to advance a pro-worker agenda in Washington state. The true champions of that agenda are the legislators who deserve our support. That support must not be taken for granted or manipulated by party organizations and their leaders.


There are many, many more stories included in the print version of the WSLC's 2010 Legislative Report. See the Table of Contents. Also, members of WSLC-affiliated unions can request a free copy of the printed version of the report.

2010 Senate Voting Record  --  2010 House Voting Record


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