AUSTIN, Texas - Jobs were clearly the biggest issue at the Texas AFL-CIO Committee on Political Education (COPE) meeting here, Feb. 6-7. Labor leaders from across the vast state gathered to discuss the issues and candidates leading up to the state's March 2 primary and the November general elections.
They also took some time for vital educational workshops:
*Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
*Labor at Center Stage -- The 2010 Elections in Texas
*Religion and Labor - Labor Economics in the Pulpit
*The Role of Labor Representatives on Workforce Boards.
The jobs crisis brought the most attention and the most applause when speakers talked about government action to end sky-high unemployment. Mike Cavanaugh, an AFL-CIO staffer from Washington, outlined the problem clearly: "Unemployment is going to be sky high for the foreseeable future." He brought a big-screen presentation of the AFL-CIO's five-point plan of government intervention to deal with the problem. It begins with extension of unemployment benefits, then calls for the same kind of financial commitment that Congress has already devoted to bankers and big corporations.
Cavanaugh brought the message that such a plan will not happen without a gigantic labor-led fight that involves all segments of the population. He said the AFL-CIO Executive Committee would be laying out specific plans at their next meeting toward the end of February. In his speech and in his workshop, the AFL-CIO rep asked for input from all Texas unionists.
Among the seven resolutions passed at the end of the conference, two were specifically about jobs. Resolution number one ended, "Be it resolved, that the Texas AFL-CIO calls for a national policy to remedy under-employment of youth. Youth employment is a key predictor of future success for the individual and the community, and directly correlates with youth violence and school dropout rates."
Resolution number six called strongly for government action: "Now therefore be it resolved, that the delegates to the Texas AFL-CIO COPE Convention call on Congress to support the AFL-CIO program to return Americans to work; and be it further resolved, that the delegates endorse quick action on job creation - which is not to be confused with blind subsidies to employers who do not follow through on job creation promises. America needs good jobs now."
Photo: Texas union leaders heard from candidates like rancher Hank Gilbert (with hat). (PW/Jim Lane)