Wednesday, June 17, 2009 | The recent article ‘Labor Council Takes Lumps’ argues that political miscalculations on the part of the Labor Council have led to the embarrassment of politicians who campaigned with labor’s support voting against labor’s interests. This article misses the bigger picture of politics and the labor movement in San Diego.
When Marti Emerald nominated anti-union hotelier Bill Evans for Port Commissioner the losers were not Lorena Gonzalez or Diane Takvorian, but rather hotel workers throughout San Diego who were faced with the prospect of a Port Commissioner out to make their lives miserable through low wages, unaffordable healthcare and poor working conditions.
When the City Council did not appoint Diane Takvorian for the Port, it was workers who missed a golden opportunity to have an unwavering advocate for workers fighting for economic and environmental justice on San Diego’s bayfront. The winners and losers in these votes will never be labor lobbyists, union leaders or politicians who have somehow miscalculated or been outmaneuvered. The losers are workers in San Diego.
Advancing economic justice for workers in San Diego is an ongoing and difficult fight. After all, there will always be politicians like Emerald, who say one thing and do another, standing in the way of progress for workers because it is more expedient to curry favor with multi-millionaires and corporations.
Despite the inevitable setbacks, our labor movement is making steady progress under Lorena Gonzalez’s leadership. Workers and union members are stronger and more effective in politics than we ever have been. And we are beginning to hold politicians accountable in ways that we should have been doing all along.
A lot of that is due to Lorena’s expertise at navigating a political minefield often stacked against workers. Just look at the Port vote: Bill Evans, one of San Diego’s elites, could not receive more than 2 votes from a City Council that in the past would kowtow unblinkingly to the wishes of hoteliers. Such a public embarrassment for a Republican hotelier would have been unthinkable even two or three years ago.
This is major progress. And San Diego is going to see a lot more of it. If we ‘lost’ in the appointment of Lee Burdick, a smart, ambitious Democrat who supports project labor and card check neutrality agreements, I cannot wait to see what winning is like.
Brigette Browning is the president of UNITE HERE Local 30.