ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The AFL-CIO has projected electing 5,000 union members to public office between now and the end of the 2004 election cycle as part of their “people-powered” political campaigns. Here, one of the trail-blazers for such a movement is Kenny Jones.

Jones elected to the Board of Alderman in 1983, was the first person in the history of Missouri to be elected as an independent. Jones, a member of the Iron Workers Local 396 for 25 years and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers for 10 years, has given working-class political leadership to the 22nd ward for 19 years. He has also been a member of the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) for over 20 years, helping to forge alliances between labor and the St. Louis community as a whole.

As an alderman, Jones was a leading force in the Free South Africa Movement. He sponsored and passed legislation to divest city pension funds from apartheid South Africa. As a member of CBTU he helped build community support for the African National Congress.

Jones, who is not seeking re-election this year in order to serve as the director of the Civil Rights Enforcement Agency for St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay, has endorsed Jay Ozier. Ozier, currently serving his fourth term as Democratic Committeeman for the 22nd ward, is a 25-year member of Carpenters Local 602 and has been a member of CBTU for 20 years.

Ozier coordinated CBTU’s Workforce Diversity Program to assure that minority and female construction workers participated in the construction of the TWA dome stadium. He also assisted young African-American and women workers in entering various Building and Construction Trades apprenticeship programs.

Combining activism and politics both Jones and Ozier have participated in numerous pickets, boycotts and demonstrations in support of labor unions, workers’ rights and human rights. Both are currently supporting the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 50 Justice for Janitors campaign.

Ocie B. Johnson is running for State Representative, 57th District. Johnson has called for local economic development to create jobs in the African-American community, community redevelopment and quality public education. He has fought against redlining and predatory lending, as well as a raise in the minimum wage, funding for job-training programs and increased opportunities in the construction industry for African Americans.

These local races can have an important impact on voter turn-out, especially in the African-American community. Missouri is looking at a tight Senate race this year between Sen. Jean Carnahan (D-Mo.) and Republican Jim Talent. Because the balance in the Senate between the Democrats and Republicans is so tight, the Missouri Senate race is on many national lists. The Republicans and other right-wing elements are trying to discourage, split and disunify communities. The former mayor of St. Louis, Freeman Bosley Jr., is asking the African-American community to vote for Republican Jim Talent “or stay home and not vote at all.” Talent is rabidly anti-labor and anti-affirmative action. He has voted against raising the minimum wage numerous times. Talent teaches two hours a week at Washington University for $90,000 a year. He also has a part time lobbying job in Washington, D.C. It pays $230,000 for part-time work.

Jones, Ozier and Johnson oppose right-wing attempts to divide the African-American community.

The author can be reached at tonpec2000@yahoo.com

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