The political wheel has rotated up for working families again, at least in yesterday’s local elections. What a difference an organized campaign makes.

Generally it has been much easier for all unions to come to agreement on candidates in state and federal elections. Local elections have created huge fights in the labor camp in the past but not this year.

As the Wobblies used to say “If god had wanted us to vote he would have given us candidates.” Well we had candidates locally we could all believe in and what a wonderful election night it made.

At Herb Bergson’s party in the Holiday Inn, and Donny Ness’ and Mike Akervik’s there too, at the India Palace, a restaurant that has signed a business-bashed card check/neutrality agreement, where Laurie Johnson, Russ Stewart and Russ Stover celebrated, the rooms were full of union members, DFLers, Greens and progressives all coming together on candidates and issues that advocated “people before profits.”

The 2000 presidential year elections should have been conducted on economic issues but weren’t. Not so locally in 2003 and hopefully it will carry over nationally next year.

With huge budget deficits nationally and in almost all states, citizens have been disgusted with the cuts that have been made in social programs in order to give tax cuts to the rich. “We’re willing to pay for programs” was the cry from progressives when the cuts came home to main street.

The near sweep of the elections by progressive candidates locally was a great indicator that people here think government should be playing a different role than the one we’re seeing from President Bush, Congress, Gov. Pawlenty and House Republicans. But when voters came in 54 to 46 percent in favor of raising their taxes a bit to support a Duluth Schools levy referendum it really indicates that the wheel has come full circle in favor of supporting quality of life issues we have been losing in Minnesota. Conservative profit protectors like the Duluth Chamber of Commerce must have felt it coming because they stayed out of this election cycle for the most part.

We’ve said many times that most of us, labor and business alike, want the same thing for our community. We want jobs, good public services and schools. We want young people to be able to stay in their hometown to work after they get done with schooling. We just have different maps for getting there.

The AFSCME Local 3801 clericals at UMD had it right with their mantra “we all do better when we all do better” which Jim Hightower attributed to his daddy and Paul Wellstone used so well.

Workers and their unions have been very reluctant to take to the streets to accomplish their goals in the past decade. That has changed drastically of late with many saying, “we’re mad as hell and we’re not taking it anymore.” A better sign is how diverse groups in the community are realizing they have much in common and are bringing their agendas together. Differences are finally being overlooked for the big picture. It’s a good sign of the times.

Larry Sillanpa can be reached at
The Labor World newspaper is on line at

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