Last Tuesday Antonio Villaraigoisa won as mayor of Los Angeles by 18 points. That was terrific. Two weeks earlier I had volunteered for Villaraigoisa in his westside office on Venice Boulevard. Two older men in their sixties were on the phones in the office where I sat, calling voters asking them who they were voting for and trying to convince them to vote for Villaraigosa. At the same time I input the results that other phone callers had gotten into the computer. After about an hour my wrists were beginning to hurt, and I was afraid of wrist injury as I’m prone to that sort of thing. A young woman reported in who was walking her neighborhood in Westchester for our candidate. There had been a huge grass-roots mobilization for weeks for Villaraigoisa. A couple times a week volunteers would call me.
Mine was just a tiny contribution but I wanted to make it as I think Los Angeles desperately needs a new mayor with a new voice and a new vision: for working people, civil liberties, and the environment. This city has been governed too long by men of little vision who make backroom deals like Hahn's appointees in the "pay-for-play" scandal where people got city contracts after giving Hahn appointees "contributions." I wanted to go to Villaraigosa victory celebration Tuesday nightbut I had to work, but I heard thousands were downtown, listening to gospel, mariachi, and rock ‘n roll in a tremendous party. What’s great is Villaraigoisa got support from voters from every part of the city—an amazing feat.
Actually, the grass-roots mobilization is the culmination of ten years of grass-roots work by trade unions and progressives to change Los Angeles. Over ten years ago progresssives in the LA County AFL-CIO elected Miguel Contreras the first Mexican-American president of the L.A. County AFL-CIO. Contreras made a huge difference, getting union members involved in working to elect progressive pro-trade union candidates for over 9 years. In 1996 I helped woman the phones at the Burbank headquarters of the steelworkers in a drive by L.A. County Federation of Labor AFL-CIO to elect progressives to state legislatures and L. A. City Council and we were successful! Slowly the labor electoral workers elected more progressives to the city council and the state legislators until the LA County AFL-CIO alongside fellow progressives had turned themselves into a political power. Year after year Contreras, the AFL-CIO, and fellow progressives did this electoral work.
We’ve elected state legislators, city councilpeople (we have a progressive majority) and now mayor! Hurrah!