3/18/08

No-vote unionism vital for the economy

Heading into another election early next month, 6th U.S. Congressional District candidate Don Cazayoux told more than 150 state AFL-CIO members Monday that he would support federal legislation to protect unions. Cazayoux, a state representative, said he believes a strong union movement is vital for a strong economy.

He promised to support the so-called Employee Free Choice Act of 2007, which backers say would amend the National Labor Relations Act to enable employees to form, join or assist labor organizations more efficiently and provide harsher penalties for unfair labor practices during organizing efforts. Opponents point out that the law would ban secret-ballot voting in unionization campaigns.

The act passed through the U.S. House and is awaiting discussion in the U.S. Senate.

The state AFL-CIO endorsed Cazayoux, D-New Roads, early on in his bid for the congressional seat.

Louis Reine, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, said the state AFL-CIO stands with candidates who represent the interests that the union represents — decent wages for employees, protected pensions, affordable health care and quality education.

Cazayoux “had the best interest for working people at heart and could take that to Washington,” Reine said.

At the AFL-CIO’s annual conference Monday, Cazayoux also touched on continuing job training programs in the state, including the expansion of union apprenticeship and community college programs.

Cazayoux got his hands dirty earlier in the week, shelling crawfish with about 60 members of the state International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers at their annual crawfish boil on Sunday.

“He’s for working families and that’s what we’re all about,” said Mike Clary, business manager of the IBEW Local Union 995 in Baton Rouge.

The IBEW invited lawyers and legislators to its weekend conference to discuss industry changes and what would be coming up in the state and federal government, said Keith Brand, a third generation IBEW member.

“We don’t have a whole bunch of money but we have votes,” Brand said.

Cazayoux said Sunday that the issues he hears from union members are the same that he hears from people around the district.

“People are working harder than ever, struggling to meet the demands of life,” Cazayoux said.

Cazayoux said he would continue to push for the expansion of the State Child Health Insurance Program, which covers some 111,000 children in Louisiana working families today.

The program would be a quick solution to help working families but there also has to be more universal solutions as well, he said.

“We need to focus, instead of talking about it and pointing fingers,” Cazayoux said.

Cazayoux and fellow state Rep. Michael Jackson, D-New Orleans, beat out three other Democrats in the primary election March 8. The two will meet in a runoff election April 5.

Woody Jenkins and Laurinda Calongne — the top two vote-getters in the Republican primary, will also be in a runoff election.

The general election is May 3.

(2theadvocate.com)

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