Member of the Quarter | January 06, 2012
Kentucky Local Recognized for PAC
To Richard Haas, president of Local 9443 in Lewisport, Ky., supporting the USW’s Political Action Committee (PAC) is a way to participate in the fight to preserve America’s middle class.
“PAC is one of the most important tools we have,” said Haas, whose local represents maintenance and production workers at the Aleris Aluminum Co. rolling mill in Lewisport.
Member contributions to the USW’s PAC are voluntary by federal law and are used to support labor-friendly candidates on the local, state and national stages.
International PAC Coordinator Mike Scarver, who nominated Haas to be the PAC member of the 2012 first quarter, said each dollar raised is used to help elect political candidates who will stand up for working people.
PAC contributions and member mobilization take on new urgency in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent “Citizens United” decision that permits corporations to spend endlessly on politics, Scarver added.
“It is more important now than ever for us to engage our members in the political process,” Scarver said. “It is our only way of fighting back and trying to level the playing field.
Corporations routinely outspend labor in election campaigns and have their own well-funded PACs to push their causes in Washington, D.C. and at the state and local levels. Corporate interests typically outspend labor by close to l9-to-one in dollar-for-dollar comparisons and the gap has been growing.
“It takes money to get our message out. We as union members have got to be able to raise money,’’ said Haas. “There is no way for us to match the money corporations and the rich have but as a mobilized group just giving some contribution can go a long way to help in our struggle against corporate America and help protect the middle class.”
With the recession, layoffs and a large number of retirees, Haas said PAC participation in the local has dropped off somewhat from 2006 when meetings were held in the plant.
Even so, the local discusses the importance of PAC with new members during new-hire orientations. It also uses the Rapid Response program to let members know about the value of PAC and political issues of importance to them and other workers.
Local 9443 discovered the importance of political mobilization when labor unions in the state in 2006 successfully fought Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher’s attempt to pass right-to-work (for less) legislation. Labor then helped elect Democrat Steve Beshear, who pledged to oppose the legislation for as long as he is governor.
“If not for the labor unions standing together and getting involved, this right-to-work for less law would have been put into place,” Haas said.