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Los Angeles

Unions Get Pointers on Fighting Recall Bid

August 03, 2003|Cara Mia DiMassa | Times Staff Writer

About 100 union organizers and activists gathered Saturday morning to learn how to use traditional "get out the vote" methods -- including precinct walking, voter registration and phone banks -- to fight the recall of Gov. Gray Davis. But they also were told how to argue against the very nature of the recall.

"It's an assault on unions, working families and a whole list of issues important to them," such as health care and workers' compensation, said Michael T. Dugan, communications director for the State Building & Construction Trades Council.

With the California Federation of Labor, his organization is sponsoring 15 such workshops -- what Dugan called "nuts and bolts" training sessions -- around the state over the next month, under the umbrella name WAR, or Workers Against the Recall.

"The consequences of a recall, we think, are disastrous for a number of reasons," Dugan said. "Somebody could win with 10% of the vote, and that's where the process has gotten completely out of whack."

The recall, said Luther B. Medina, the director of organizing for Sheet Metal Workers' Local 105, represents a "deterioration of the public process. That's what I'm afraid of today."

Medina attended the Saturday session to receive media training and learn how to better communicate key points about labor's opposition to the recall. He said he would try to convince his union's membership that replacing the governor mid-term would endanger the rights of workers. "It's a continual process," he said. "But what we do is educate the membership."

Dugan said the workshops are not weighing in on gubernatorial choices that will also appear on the Oct. 7 ballot. "Our message is very clear," he said. "Vote no on the recall. Period."

Lyn Hilfenhaus, a founder of the group Women Against the Recall, said her organization plans to focus its education effort on "how much the Davis administration has done for women," by touting accomplishments such as a comprehensive paid family leave policy, which the governor signed into law last September.

Hilfenhaus said Women Against the Recall will target women voters and encourage the use of absentee ballots. On Saturday, she said she was happy to have received training and to have met fellow recall opponents. "We're getting to know each other so we're on the same page to defeat this."

Dugan admitted that the carnival-like recall, in which Larry Flynt and Arnold Schwarzenegger have each, at one time or another, been said to be gubernatorial contenders, has made for "a nice party."

"Now," he said, "we've got the hangover."

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