Labor boosts Wellstone campaign

If the election were held today, Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone would defeat his GOP opponent by a 47 to 44 margin, according to a poll conducted for Minnesota Public Radio (MPR). Candidates for the Independence and Green parties would each win 2 percent, with 5 percent of Minnesotans are still undecided.

Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Central Labor Union Council, said despite the polls, the Minnesota labor movement was not taking anything for granted. He scribed the Labor 2002 campaign in the twin cities and throughout the state as an “all out effort. I’ve never seen anything like it in the 15 years I’ve held elected union office. We’re registering our members, leafleting work sites and making phone calls and will step up these activities as the elections get closer. Our goal is to get 70 percent of our members to the polls. If we do that, Wellstone will win.”

McCarty said there was “more at stake” in the Minnesota senate race than whether or not Wellstone wins.”Electing Wellstone is key to who controls the Senate,” he told the World in a telephone interview. “That’s important to working families and is one of the reasons the AFL-CIO sees the Minnesota election as a ‘must win.’ If the Republicans win this seat they will flaunt it as proof that militant, grass roots politics is a loser, hoping to discourage any candidate from following Wellstone’s lead.”

“Our issues are the same as those of working families everywhere,” he said. “We want to be able to live decently, provide for our children and for our seniors. McCarthy said unions in the area were planning an all day event on Nov. 4 as part of a campaign to put a thousand election workers on the street the next day.

The Minnesota race, pitting Wellstone, arguably the nation’s most liberal senator, against a turncoat Democrat and former St. Paul mayor, has drawn national attention – and special attention from the White House. Both President Bush and Vice President Cheney have been in the state in behalf of the GOP candidate who was hand picked by the president

Larry Sillanpa, editor of the Labor World Newspaper, published by the Duluth Central Labor Council, calls Wellstone “the best labor senator” he will ever get a chance to elect. “We know what we have in Paul,” he said. “The differences between the two major candidates are so evident that people are not going to take a chance on Wellstone losing.”

Dave Moerke, president of the South West Minnesota Labor Council in Worthington, said his members, scattered over 10 counties along the Iowa border, are “just as enthusiastic” about the Wellstone campaign as those in the metropolitan areas. “We share the same concerns and determination,” he said. Moerke said that given its limited resources – 25 affiliated locals with a total membership of 2,000 and no paid staff – the council would depend on mailings and would participate in phone banking with other organizations.

Although the Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) does not endorse political candidates, Ron Hauglie, MFU field director said the organizations 40,000 family farmers were concerned about access to affordable health care, the price they get for their products and the special problems of education in rural areas.

In a recent issue of “Frontline Report,” the newsletter of his campaign, Wellstone said he was running for reelection to help achieve “real positive consequences for working families. But we must not stop there,” he said. “Progressive public officials, grass roots activists and concerned citizens must set our sights and our efforts on an agenda to bridge the broad and growing chasm that divides a prospering, affluent group from the vast majority of American who continue to struggle to make ends meet.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org