By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Union leaders and rank-and-file members gathered Monday morning for an annual Sonoma County Labor Day breakfast at which pancakes and political pep talks were served up equally.
“This election coming up will make a huge difference to what happens to workers,” said Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, who called on organized labor to help mobilize voters for November’s mid-term elections.
“If independent voters and Democrats don’t go to the polls, it could be a disaster for Democrats, but I believe we will prevail,” said Woolsey, who is expected to easily win re-election.
“Without organized labor, our middle class disappears,” she said.
An estimated 400 to 500 people attended the event, organized by the North Bay Labor Council, at the local carpenters’ union hall in Santa Rosa.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, whose district includes southern Sonoma County, said the November elections are a choice between “going forward and going backward.”
Leno acknowledged the recession has soured voters moods but said the Obama administration inherited a nose-diving economy. He blamed economic woes on Republicans, saying, “It’s not the policies of the past two years that have brought on this calamity.”
He acknowledged, too, that many political observers have predicted a dismal election for Democrats but said unions can play a key role in turning that around.
“Common wisdom has it” that tea party activists are “energized and Democrats are not,” Leno said. “We have to prove them wrong.”
Norman Solomon, a Marin County-based author, Democratic activist and 2008 Obama delegate, said there was a different mood among party stalwarts at the annual breakfast.
“People are in a defensive crouch,” he said, adding that “union participation will be crucial” to Democrats in the fall.
He was more willing than Woolsey or Leno to criticize the Democratic Party’s leadership.
“We need a progressive populism that fights to create jobs and challenge undue corporate power, and the Obama administration has not pursued that approach,” Solomon said.
“Job one is to create jobs, and this administration should be fighting for Main Street much more than it is,” he said.
Others at the event were more forgiving.
“There’s a balance you have to deal with in politics, and he (Obama) hasn’t forgotten the workers, but it’s going to take some time,” said Denise Soza, a union electrician and a business representative with Local 551 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
Soza said the message of the day was clear: “If you bring the working class back, the economy will follow.”