Labor Leaders Put Out Voter's Guide: Cleveland AFL/CIO Plans to Mail 90,000 to Local Residents

Mike West- Here at the Cleveland waterfront, ships and trucks are being loaded and unloaded by longshoremen. As union members they receive fat pay envelopes and good benefits in exchange for their dues. So naturally the folks who spend their days and nights toiling on the docks are very loyal to organized labor, the people who tell them which candidates to vote for. That's why getting your name on the "labor voters guild," or slate, for the November election can be more valuable than, say a dozen fund-raising dinners. The Cleveland AFL/CIO is mailing out 90,000 of their "voter guides." The letter sized list is meant to be taken into the voting booth. It has the names of 21 people running for judgeships from the Ohio Supreme Court down to county juvenile judges. It may surprise you that 6 of them are Republicans. Cleveland labor insider Herbert "Bud" McTaggart.

Herbert "Bud" McTaggart- It sends a message to our membership that we are truly a non-partisan. The media always likes to characterize us as wedded at the hip to the democratic party.

MW- McTaggart says all endorsements made by the AFL/CIO are done carefully and in the end, the labor organization doesn't care about party affiliation.

HM- Their rulings have been fair and you can't expect anything except fairness, that's what it's about. It's a process that the scanning committee which is a committee that makes a recommendation. And those recommendations go to an executive board and from there they go to the body so there are three areas that endorsement has to get over, any one that can be reversed.

MW- The Republican Party naturally welcomes the support of the labor vote. But judges are normally some of the most low profile candidates in an election. Jim Trakas is the chairman of the Cuyahoga County Republican Party. He says despite the lack of attention justices usually receive they're a very powerful bunch, and deserve careful consideration by the unions.

Jim Trakas- Labor has a strong history of being involved in the judiciary and in fact I would argue that the most influential slate card in Cuyahoga County is not the Democratic Party but is organized labor. In the city of Cleveland our polls have shown consistently that people would believe the AFL/CIO over the Democratic Party if they ever disagree on things.

MW- Trakas says he's not surprised that about a quarter of the candidates on the labor slate card are republicans. He says there are thousands of union workers in the area and retired members who follow labor endorsements. That's why republican candidates, in this case judges, have become chummy with the leaders of the working class.

JT- This is a bi-product of Greater Cleveland - you don't see this happening in other parts of the state. The smart republican officials have crated relationships with members of organized labor and that has benefited them politically and they want to be on that labor slate card it means a lot to them.

MW- So far the AFL/CIO has only put out a list of candidates in judicial races for the November election, but with about a quarter of the endorsements going to republicans, it's bound to be causing some concern at the democratic headquarters.

Cindy Marizette is the Executive Director of the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party. She says, overall, some of her party's candidates may have lost some labor support because the Republicans have gradually shifted or copied the Democrats to make themselves more attractive to the working man and labor leaders.

Cindy Marizette- We, as you know years ago held the statewide ticket was entirely democratic ticket, over the years I think the Republicans have positioned themselves and molded themselves after the Democratic Party in their outreach and grass roots efforts and they were successful at taking over the ticket 4 years ago. They were able to elect the republican governor and the republican ticket in the statehouse. But I think that over the next few years, hopefully in the next election in 2002, we'll see that the Democrats come back with the strength we've had over the years.

MW- The slate of judges may not seem all that exciting, but at least one judicial race is already red hot. Republicans and business groups want Supreme Court Justice Alice Robie Resnick voted out of office for her opinion that the state change the way schools are funded from their current dependence on property tax. She was also one of the judges who ruled that tort reform, or setting caps on the amount of money people can win if they sue a company, was unconstitutional. Resnick happens to be endorsed by the AFL/CIO.

If you're a party loyal voter, and go to the polls, you may not know who to vote for. Because the party affiliation of a judges is not supposed to influence their decisions, party membership is not printed on the ballot - so you'll have to check with the county clerk if you care to find out.

In Cleveland, Mike West, 90.3 WCPN 90.3 FM.

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