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Anti-Labor Feinstein Challenged At CA AFL-CIO Convention

From: Michael Eisenscher <meisenscher@igc.org>

The two day Biennial California Labor Federation concluded in Anaheim today with a bit of a surprise as delegates fired an unexpected shot across the bow of free trader Diane Feinstein.

Most of the convention was a scripted campaign rally for Al Gore
accompanied by the usual rubber stamping of decisions already made by labor federation leaders.  The convention was scheduled to close with the routine unanimous ratification of the state COPE endorsements, but COPE hadn't reckoned with Green US Senate candidate Medea Benjamin who sat quietly at the back of the hall and had one on one conversations with delegates about her program for fair trade, universal health care, an end to privatization, and everything else on labors agenda.

After Monday's session about 20 delegates met with Medea at poolside to hear more about Medea's labor platform along with a comparison to Feinstein's, who voted for NAFTA, GATT, and was a leader of the campaign to pass China normal trade relations.  Then we talked about what we could do to support her.  We agreed that it would be wrong to remain silent at Tuesday's COPE endorsement and even if we lost 10 to 1, we at least had to go through the motions of opposing Feinstein's endorsement and make sure it wasn't unanimous.

Tuesday morning we met again for a press conference.  Only two
reporters showed up and they left.  The delegates tossed around ideas of how to challenge the Feinstein endorsement and what arguments to make on Medea's behalf.

Tuesday afternoon, when the endorsements were read off from the
podium, our tiny handful challenged the Feinstein endorsement from the floor and three of our number took to the floor mikes to denounce the free trade policies of Feinstein and praise the pro-labor platform of Medea.  After the third delegate spoke, a motion was made and passed to cut off further debate.  A voice vote was called, and to everyone's astonishment somewhere between 25 and 40 percent of the delegates voted 'no' on the endorsement.

Though technically a victory for Feinstein, clearly she was the loser
and Medea was the winner.  Not only was it a warning message to
politicians who take labor for granted, but it was also a message from
the ranks of labor that we're fed up with policies from the top that
support fair trade and then turn around and support the candidates who oppose fair trade.  It was also a clear illustration that the spirit
of Seattle has taken hold in the labor movement and is growing.

For more info on the Medea Benjamin campaign for US Senate, and to read her labor platform, see

To invite Medea to visit your union meeting, send an e-mail to Michael
Eisenscher, meisenscher@igc.apc.org

Michael Everett
IATSE 728
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