They represented the largest labor union force in the west. Standing room only in the conference hall at Our Lady of Angels Cathedral. Laborers, teachers, nurses, firefighters and scores more… all active in their locals and vocal in their support. The electorate may be restless and Democrat incumbents feeling the heat this election season but the LA County Federation of Labor has their backs.
The election year Labor Day political kickoff is the kind of event where the politicians are simply happy with the invitation. This is the union leaderships show. Most party office holders were relegated to the buffet line where they helped dish out breakfast. There was San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome with the hash brown potatoes standing next to an apron clad Rep. Loretta Sanchez who had scrambled egg duty (nobody got sick). Other big Dems were later acknowledged to the crowd such as one currently the subject of a Congressional ethics investigation: “We don’t care what they are trying to do to her… we love Congresswoman Maxine Waters!” exclaimed Maria Elena Durazo of the Labor Federation. Waters stood and waved.
State Controller John Chaing was one of few allowed to address the crowd. The slot apparently offered in gratitude for his efforts at throwing a monkey wrench into Governor Schwarzenegger’s effort at temporarily cutting the pay of state workers, most of whom are unionized.
The only other political figures to address the body were the two at the top of the Democratic ticket.
Now of course there is a difference in status between being a member of the United States Senate and Governor of California. The former might make you part of the “world’s most exclusive club” but being the Governor of the nation’s largest state simply holds more prestige. One out of eight Americans live in California and that fact alone means the state’s chief executive is automatically a national figure of consequence.
The job also holds more responsibility as steward of a state with the 7th largest economy in the world.
Boxer entered and quickly began moving table to table shaking hands. One or two news cameras followed. A question was asked by a reporter that was ignored. Most of the room didn’t know she was there. Boxer would later give a speech to the gathering and would receive a warm welcome. But the 28 year Washington vet Marin was far from the crowds favorite. Not by a long shot.
Nor was she the primary media draw.
Print and broadcast reporters pounced on the Attorney General in a hallway outside the ballroom As normally is his custom he answered every question put to him until all were satisfied. The camera crews then retreated to the ballroom to chronicle his entrance to the podium once he was introduced.
They have known him as an ally since he first ran for Secretary of State back in the early 70’s.
Later it was Jerry Brown who, as Governor, pushed for and signed the law that allowed for collective bargaining for state workers. He was a friend to the United Farmworkers Union and created the Ag Labor Relations Board. To union members Jerry Brown is the real deal.
They cheered, clapped, danced and sang. This was an old friend in familiar territory. No need for a teleprompter or a script. All were use to Brown’s “stream of consciousness” speaking style and they loved it.
He talked of the past. Yes he never had a “plan” for anything because he never liked the word… instead he had “strategies”. He poured sugar and maple syrup over his eight year history as Governor where he said he created jobs, budget surpluses and lowered taxes (claims that are somewhat debatable). He reminisced about taking a vow of poverty as he entered the seminary and the common ground he had found with Republicans.
The Attorney General didn’t talk about the union pension bomb that will threaten to bankrupt city and county governments. He never mention the pledge he made in his new TV ad not to raise taxes without voter approval. “Tough choices are ahead” was as close as he got to bad news.
But this wasn’t a time for negativity. Jerry Brown needs the time, money and labo of every union leader, precinct captain and shop steward in the state. Without their help, as much as they love him, yesterday’s Labor Day rally will probably be his last.