Bradley, Others Assail Bush, Urge Election of Democrats
Mayor Tom Bradley and several other elected and religious officials launched sharp attacks on Republican standard bearer George Bush and his running mate Dan Quayle at the annual Labor Day breakfast of the Catholic Labor Institute in Los Angeles on Monday.
“The Reagan-Bush Administration has been the most anti-union Administration in our memory,” Bradley said in an unusually harsh address that stressed the importance of electing the Democratic ticket in November.
“This has been a union-busting Administration dramatized by the air traffic controllers when they (Administration officials) destroyed that union” in 1981, Bradley said in his address before nearly 1,000 people at the downtown Hyatt Regency Hotel.
“This was the Administration that led the movement for give-backs that eroded the wages and benefits you fought so long and hard for,” the mayor said.
Then, Bradley personalized the attack on the Republican presidential candidate by blasting Bush’s recent remark that an increase of 228,000 in the nation’s unemployment rolls last month was “not relevant.”
“Well, 228,000 human beings out of work may not be relevant to George Bush, but they are relevant to the working men and women of this nation and they will not forget them,” Bradley declared.
William R. Robertson, executive secretary of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor (AFL-CIO), picked up the cudgel by reading a statement from Democratic presidential candidate Michael S. Dukakis that also focused on the plight of the unemployed: “On this Labor Day we must also remember that those who have lost their jobs are not irrelevant. They’re not just figures. They’re our neighbors. And we will not be satisfied until we create good jobs at good wages for every working family.”
A little later, Father John Seymour of Ascension Church in South-Central Los Angeles blasted Quayle for opposing an increase in the minimum wage. “If his wages were as low as his grades, he’d be for an increase,” Seymour said to laughter and applause.
The priest was one of numerous clergymen who played a key role in getting California’s minimum wage elevated last year and he accepted an award on behalf of the Los Angeles chapter of the Industrial Areas Foundation from the Catholic Labor Institute for that work. The election of Dukakis as President and Lt. Gov. Leo T. McCarthy to the U.S. Senate would help end “the long dark night for working people” that the Reagan-Bush Administration has been, said state Atty. Gen. John K. Van de Kamp, who served as master of ceremonies.
He reminded the audience that although Labor Day is a holiday designed to honor American workers, this year working people in California find themselves “locked in a struggle to protect our most basic rights.”
Van de Kamp cited battles over attempts to create a sub-minimum wage for employees who are paid tips, pending regulatory action to eliminate guaranteed overtime pay after eight hours work and an initiative campaign to restore the state’s occupational safety and agency as prime battlegrounds for labor in the coming months.
“It’s time for us to turn on, tune in, get ticked off and take control of our own destiny,” said Patrick Henning, executive director of the Labor Institute and chief consultant to the Assembly Labor Committee.
And he made it clear, in a pointed reference to Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.) that labor would reward its friends and punish its enemies at the polls this fall. “The junior senator from our state crossed a picket line at the Sacramento Hyatt Hotel recently,” Henning said. “A few days later, his (campaign staff) called and asked if they could come here and talk. I told them, he who crosses the picket line on a Tuesday does not come to breakfast the next Monday.”
Wilson’s opponent, McCarthy, was given a standing ovation. He attacked Wilson for opposing a now-passed federal law that says workers are entitled to 60 days advance notice if their workplace is to be shut down, and he condemned Wilson as a person who “has reverted to a very narrow ideological agenda.”
John F. Henning, executive secretary of the California Labor Federation, referred to the two toxic cloud incidents this past weekend in Los Angeles in an attempt to rev up the crowd to work for the passage of Proposition 97, an initiative that would restore the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, which was abolished when Gov. George Deukmejian vetoed the agency’s funding last year. “Cal/OSHA had rules governing 170 toxic substances that are not regulated by federal OSHA,” he declared.
The institute honored Polish labor leader Lech Walesa as its “Citizen of the Year,” and attempted to reach him by telephone in Poland. When that was unsuccessful, Van de Kamp read a prepared statement from Walesa: “We workers in Poland share with workers in America the goal of human dignity. As we strive for free association and worker unity, we ask for your prayers and your solidarity.”
As the labor event was being held in Los Angeles, Labor Day parades were being held across the country. In Wilmington, about 300 people marched in a parade down Avalon Boulevard with the theme of “Jobs With Justice.” About 200,000 people marched in New York City, site of the first Labor Day parade in 1882, when workers spearheaded by Peter McGuire of the Carpenters Union were struggling to win the right to an eight-hour day. At the time, a 12-hour day and seven-day work week were common. The primary focus of the New York parade this year was voter registration.
Although the Reagan era has been bleak for unions, organized labor could take some comfort Monday in recent polls by the Gallup organization that show that public approval of unions has risen by six percentage points since 1981, while disapproval of them has declined by 10%.
The poll, conducted in June through interviews with 1,029 people and released late last month, showed that 61% of the public at large approve of unions while 25% disapprove and 14% have no opinion. In 1986, the last time Gallup polled on this subject, 59% of the respondents said they approved of unions, 30% said they did not approve and 11% had no opinion. Still, the recent figures are considerably below the 75% approval rating unions had in the mid-1950s. The latest poll had a margin of error of 4%.