No matter who wins the runoff Tuesday for Los Angeles County supervisor in the 1st District, electoral democracy and the Latino community have a victory in hand. But organized labor, a pillar of Democratic liberal politics, will be the loser if Councilwoman Gloria Molina is the victor.
Molina, having failed to obtain organized labor's coveted endorsement and contributions, has launched an assault on State Sen. Art Torres, who did get labor's nod, as the tool of a "special interest." While receiving substantial developer contributions, she has proclaimed "independence" from special interests or political parties, accusing Torres of being controlled by the unions.
It is unsurprising that Torres won organized labor's support. He has authored many workers' rights laws, including farm-worker and workers' compensation legislation and the last bill to increase the minimum wage in California. Molina, in contrast, has repeatedly refused to support union organizing drives and strikes, including the Justice for Janitors movement and the El Centro Mental Health strike in East Los Angeles, both actions involving the Service Employees International Union, which also represents county workers.
But Molina's attacks on Torres are surprising, especially for a liberal Democrat. This is vintage anti-union strategy, reminiscent of the 1984 Reagan campaign against Walter Mondale. The Republicans, by calling organized labor a "special interest," equated unions with developers, bankers and the tobacco and liquor industries. It was a devastating move that that undercut Democratic attacks on Reagan for receiving huge corporate contributions.