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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.
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:
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.
Copyright © 2010 Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO