Labor leaders upset with state Democrats
Upset with what they see as an increasingly pro-business tilt to the Democratic Party in Washington state, labor leaders have formed a new organization to keep a tighter grip on who gets their campaign dollars.
OLYMPIA — Upset with what they see as an increasingly pro-business tilt to the Democratic Party in Washington state, labor leaders have formed a new organization to keep a tighter grip on who gets their campaign dollars.
Don't Invest in More Excuses (DIME), a political-action committee formed by the Washington State Labor Council, was designed to give the umbrella group more control over which candidates and campaigns get union dollars, council President Rick Bender told The Olympian newspaper.
"We want a little bit more control over where our dollars go," Bender said.
The labor council provided money for independent ads and an estimated 250,000 telephone calls to voters to help Gov. Chris Gregoire win re-election. Bender said there will be no more business as usual for labor.
Going into its annual two-day convention that begins Friday in Wenatchee, the council is also reviewing policies on grass-roots support and endorsements, likely meaning fewer campaign workers for Democratic Party causes and fewer dollars for the party and state legislative campaign committees run by its caucuses.
Labor support also helped Democrats retain control of both houses of the Legislature last year.
"Our relationship is not like it was before going into the 2008 election," Bender said. "No question we've decided we are going to change the way we're going to finance these campaigns."
In the 16th Legislative District, Laura Grant is the top fundraiser in a six-way race for the unexpired term of her late father, longtime Democratic Rep. Bill Grant of Walla Walla. But she has gotten nothing from unions representing teachers, state employees, technical engineers and nonteaching public-school employees, all of which gave to her father a year ago.
"I understand they are in a bit of a predicament. I, of course, need all the help I can get," Grant said. "Without the support of labor, it's a difficult race."
Grant's record was rated 14 percent favorable to labor issues this year, labor council spokeswoman Kathy Cummings said.
"We're not holding her out as an example. We're holding to our new prescribed strategy. We're looking for champions. She obviously isn't," Cummings said.
Meetings between labor leaders and House Speaker Frank Chopp, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Gregoire are being arranged "to urge them to sort of restore our traditional working relationship," state Democratic Party Chairman Dwight Pelz said.
"All I can tell you is I understand there are raw feelings, and we are doing everything we can at the Democratic Party to restore the traditional alliance between labor and the Democratic Party," Pelz said.
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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