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AFSCME threatens to leave Contra Costa labor council

By Lisa Vorderbrueggen
Monday, February 25th, 2008 at 11:59 am in Contra Costa politics, Labor politics.

Union workers at the East Bay Municipal Water District have threatened to withdraw from the Contra Costa Central Labor Council if it continues to take positions counter to those of local voters, according to a letter from American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Local 444 President Ruben Rodriguez.

In a very strongly worded letter (posted below), Rodriguez refers to the council’s opposition to the recall of Pinole Councilwoman Maria Alegria, support of urban casinos and former Richmond Mayor Irma Anderson.

Alegria was recalled on Feb. 5. Anderson lost her re-election bid in 2006. And Rodriguez says polls show that Contra Costa residents do not want Indian casinos in their communities.

The council, which is an umbrella group for labor in the county, is hurting labor’s reputation in the community, Rodriguez wrote.”Should the council continue to pursue such anti-union, anti-citizen and anti-democratic positions, we will be forced to withdraw from the council and will actively encourage other Locals (unions) to do so as well,” Rodriguez wrote. “We do not support the philosophy of ‘She may be a crook but she’s our crook.’ Why should citizens honor labor if labor doesn’t honor them?”

Here’s the full text of the letter sent to Contra Costa Labor Council:

February 21, 2008

Contra Costa Central Labor Council

Pam Aguilar, Acting Executive Secretary-Treasurer

1333 East Pine St., #E

Martinez, CA 94553

Dear Pam Aguilar,

AFSCME Local 444 is very concerned about recent political positions taken by the Contra Costa Central Labor Council (CCCLC). We are concerned about the Council’s support of Maria Alegria in the recent recall election, the Council’s support of Irma Anderson in the 2006 Richmond mayoral election and, lastly, the Council’s support for urban casinos.

In the case of Mayor Alegria, the citizens of Pinole formed a grass roots organization to unseat a politician who took advantage of her official position to act in a manner that was detrimental to the best interests of her constituents. Although her voting record may have been pro-labor, ultimately her actions hurt the community she served. Organized labor had no business involving itself in a campaign that will give unions a black eye in Pinole as well as other East Bay communities. Thanks to the actions taken by the CCCLC it will be a long time before organized labor will be respected in Pinole.

Endorsing Irma Anderson for Mayor of Richmond is yet another example of behavior on the part of CCCLC which our Local feels compelled to condemn. Irma Anderson was an ineffectual politician who, when caught in a financial dilemma in part of her own making, laid off over 200 SEIU workers. This action alone should cost her the support of all organized labor, yet the CCCLC endorsed her.

Finally, the CCCLC position on urban casinos is the most backward and anti-labor position a labor organization could take. The citizens of Contra Costa, when polled by State Assemblyperson Hancock, overwhelming stated they did not want casinos in their communities. The citizens of Richmond were never given the opportunity to vote on bringing casinos into the City. The opposition to urban casinos is based on overwhelming information, provided by public and private institutions, clearly indicating the harm casinos reap upon communities. It should also be noted that the individuals harmed most by gambling are the poor and blue collar workers, the very people CCCLC claims to speak for. The CCCLC’c position on casinos is both cynical and opportunistic.The proof that Local 444′s views on these issues are consistent with local public opinion can be found in the defeat by the voters of both Irma Anderson and Maria Alegria. In addition, there is a strong possibility that the Richmond casino deals will fall through.

The members of Local 444 are putting the CCCLC on notice that should the Council continue to pursue such anti-union, anti-citizen and anti-democratic positions we will be forced to withdraw from the Council and will actively encourage other Locals to do so as well. We do not support the philosophy of “she may be a crook but she’s is our crook.” Why should citizens honor Labor if Labor doesn’t honor them?

In Solidarity,

Rubin Rodriguez, President AFSCME Local 444 8400 Enterprise Way, Suite 101 Oakland, CA 94621

cc: George Popyack, Director AFSCME Council 57 Mark Foley, President AFSCME Local 2019Mark Gagliardi, Ex. board CCCLC Millie Cleveland, BA SEIU 1021 Tarnel Abbot, Shop Steward SEIU 1021, Richmond Chapter

Nagaraja Rao, Committee Chairman CCDCC (Contra Costa Democraic Central Committee)
Richard L. Verrilli, CCDCC (Contra Costa Democraic Central Committee)

Jeff Rubin, Concerned Citizens of Pinole

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  • jeremy L

    Yeah, the darned union shouldn’t promote casinos that would bring thousands of jobs, with good pay and family health benefits to the community. How dare they.

  • jeremy L

    Yeah, the darned union shouldn’t promote casinos that would bring thousands of jobs, with good pay and family health benefits to the community. How dare they.

  • antioch militia

    where was Rubin Rodriguez’s strongly worded letter against AFSCME LOCAL444 in their monetary support of convicted cop killer Mumia Abu Jamal? Glass houses Rubin. Glass houses.