Labor unions unite to endorse local candidates

Monday, September 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:38 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Local politicians who have adopted labor-friendly platforms will be rewarded with support from the United Working People of Mid-Missouri, a group of about 60 individuals representing nearly 20 union organizations.

The political action committee first met in February and has decided to endorse eight candidates since the August primary elections. Each politician will receive backing from the group in the form of money and organized canvassing.

The committee required each candidate seeking endorsement to submit answers to a questionnaire made available to all political parties. Committee members collectively decided what questions would be asked.

Russ Unger, the organization’s treasurer, said the most difficult part of the process was ensuring the interests of all the members were reflected in the questionnaire.

“We have anyone from teachers to steelworkers to public employees,” Unger said. “With that, you come up with a lot of different questions.”

Unger, a member of the Local 36 of the Sheet Metal Workers, said the common thread among the chosen questions was that they all dealt with the interests of working people. He said it is unique for a group of union members to be mobile at the local level.

“I think that sometimes labor people may not be as active as they need to be,” Unger said. “If someone can show them what the issues are and how it affects working people, then they can go out and vote for the candidates who support working people’s issues.”

He said he believes the effort has been successful.

“I’m very happy where we’re at,” he said. “We keep going out and knocking on doors and talking, and we keep getting bigger.”

Steve McLuckie, president of the organization, said that because state financing laws limit the amount of money the group can donate, their efforts will focus on public outreach.

“Talking to members of the various unions will make sure they know what candidate we’re recommending,” he said.

McLuckie said the organization has decided to stay out of federal elections.

“The federal election law is much more complicated,” he said. “We’re a brand-new volunteer organization, and we didn’t want to get into that.”

McLuckie said another reason the group has focused on the local level is that fewer people pay attention to local politics.

“I think people know about the federal candidates, but if you ask most people who their state representatives are, they don’t know,” he said.

Rep. Nancy Copenhaver, a Democrat running for the 22nd Congressional District seat, is one of the candidates the group is endorsing.

“I’m really thrilled to have their endorsement,” she said.

Copenhaver said she thinks the group provides a way to combine the efforts of many groups.

“It gives ordinary people more involvement in the political process and with their local candidates,” she said.

McLuckie said he hopes the organization’s efforts will continue to grow.

“I think next election we can be more effective than this time,” he said. “I know for a fact working people in Missouri know more about their candidates.”

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