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Texas Labor Picks Its Candidates

With primary elections coming, Texas labor activists met in Austin to make their choices

"Solidarity Forever" ended the confrence

On a unanimous voice vote, delegates to the 2008 Texas Committee on Political Education (COPE) conference, including the UAW delegation, endorsed the following candidates for the March 4 primary election:

U.S. Senate - Rick Noriega

Texas Railroad Commission - No Endorsement

Texas Supreme Court, Chief Justice - Jim Jordan

Texas Supreme Court, Place 7 - Sam Houston

Texas Supreme Court, Place 8 - Susan Criss & Linda Yañez (Dual Endorsement)

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 3 - Susan Strawn

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 4 - J.R. Molina

Court of Criminal Appeals, Place 9 - No Endorsement Chair, Democratic Party of Texas - Boyd Richie

Texas AFL-CIO COPE further recommended that in other non-statewide elections, the endorsements of the applicable Central Labor Councils will be accepted and incorporated in the Texas AFL-CIO COPE endorsement list. For elections in which no Central Labor Council has jurisdiction, the Texas COPE Committee will make endorsements.

The COPE conference took place in Austin January 19-20. Almost 300 union activists came in from all over the state. Four workshops took place:

"The Erosion of Employment -Based Insurance"

"Becoming a National Delegate"

"Working Families Tool Kit"

"Dollars and Change: The 2008 Election Outlook"

Texas AFL-CIO President Becky Moeller, the first woman to ever hold that position, gave a very optimistic keynote speech. She noted that labor has recently helped switch two Republican seats in the State House to labor-friendly Democrats. In December, Democrat Dan Barrett overcame six Republican opponents to take District 97 in Fort Worth. In September, Republican State Representative Kirk England in Dallas District 106 switched parties. Labor-friendly representatives have moved within striking distance of their first statewide majority since 1982.

Moeller stressed the theme of the conference when she said, "We can change the political climate in Texas. We will change the political climate in Texas!"

Stewart Acuff, head of the National AFL-CIO Organizing Department, made a stirring speech that emphasized the lessons of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr as relevant to unionism. Acuff fairly brought the house down with his message of the inherent justice in the labor movement and labor's great hopes for 2008. Acuff, center, is pictured with Paul Brown and Becky Moeller of the Texas AFL-CIO>

George Kourpias, National President of the Alliance for Retired Americans, talked about the growing importance of union retirees in election campaigns. He drew exhilarating applause with the only reference to President George Bush that was made at the conference. Kourpias predicted, "Texas will have a new retiree next year!"

For North Texans, the high point of the weekend event came on Saturday evening at the awards banquet. North Texas Jobs with Justice charter member Pancho Medrano posthumously received Texas labor's highest award, enshrinement in the Texas Labor Hall of Fame. About 20 members of the Medrano family attended to see former National Vice President of the AFL-CIO Linda Chavez-Thompson present the award.

Chavez-Thompson said, "Pancho was a man who spoke for the many who were denied a voice." She went over some of the many highlights of his long career as a union and civil rights activist. He was one of the few unionists to have played a role in virtually all of the major civil rights events of the 1960s and 1970s. His successful lawsuit against a captain of the Texas Rangers stopped their long union-busting history.

Dallas City Councilwoman Pauline Medrano, while accepting the award in the name of her father, led the entire family in reciting Pancho's most famous motto: "In America, everything is politics. From the day you are born, until the day you die."

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