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Abstract

[Excerpt] One of the most important functions of central labor councils (CLCs) is making electoral politics work for labor. While the issues that a CLC tackles need to be linked to a national labor agenda, which includes fighting against privatization, securing a living wage, and promoting unions, the actual struggles take place on a local level. An effective council needs to listen to and develop consensus around the issues of concern to its member unions and then endorse those candidates who will be most supportive and effective at addressing those issues. After a candidate is elected, CLCs need to continue to have a political presence. Ideally, CLCs use electoral politics to build community alliances, understand power relationships, and wield political power in a way that builds the labor movement.

Our success in the Atlanta mayoral election shows that a CLC with active affiliates can change the course of an election and forward labor's agenda after an election. The stakes of the mayoral race were high: labor had the potential to stop privatization; strengthen construction unions; secure the jobs related to the 1996 Olympics for union workers; and demonstrate labor's power and electoral muscle. We needed a decisive victory and the CLC had to deliver.

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