Texas labor fights back

Bloodied but unbowed after a terrible state legislative session, Texas labor is laying plans to continue fighting. At the AFL-CIO convention in Austin July 24-26, over 400 delegates applauded the “Killer-D” state representatives who fled the state in May (and again in late July) to thwart a redistricting power grab by their Republican opponents. They endorsed the Immigrant Workers Freedom Ride, a national Cesar Chavez holiday, and dozens of other progressive proposals.

One important battleground will be the Texas constitutional elections scheduled by the Republican legislative majority for Sept. 13. One of the amendments up for vote, known as Proposition 12, would diminish the right of juries to set the amount of damages awarded in civil lawsuits. It would thereby limit the average person’s ability to legally hold people or companies accountable for wrongdoing.

The election date was deliberately isolated from local elections in November and is set for a Saturday during football season. Speakers pointed out that the amendment’s big-business sponsors were hoping for the lowest possible voter turnout. Attorney Dan Lamb of Texas Watch told the convention, “We know the other side is trying to keep this issue below the radar.” The state federation offered anti-Prop. 12 literature to all.

Coalition of Black Trade Unionists President Bill Lucy gave one of the most dramatic speeches at the convention. Most of the speakers criticized President Bush on civil liberties, economic issues, and his attacks against working people, but Lucy distinguished himself from the other speakers by not being afraid to criticize Bush’s aggressions overseas.

On the invasion of Iraq, he asked, “What’s it all about? And if you tell me it’s to bring democracy to Iraq, I will ask the same question: What is it all about? I would suggest it is about some folks getting richer at the expense of others.”

Lucy spoke directly against President Bush’s new and aggressive “pre-emptive strike” foreign policy. He said, “The question becomes, ‘Are we going to go to war with every country that we disagree with?’” Lucy received a very warm reception from the Texas delegates.

Another highlight was a workshop organized by national leaders of the Jobs with Justice organization. The workshop organizers were surprised by twice the turnout they had expected.

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