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Documenting Labor Inside and Out
Political Action
Unions and Politicians

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Members of the Capital District Union Label and Service Trades Council and Albany Mayor Erastus Corning II, 1963 Members of the Capital District Union Label and Service Trades Council and Albany Mayor Erastus Corning II, 1963
Members of the Capital District Union Label and Service Trades Council "look for the union label" in the jacket of Albany Mayor Erastus Corning II in 1963, photographer unknown (Records of the Glove Cities Area Joint Board). As members of the Capital District Union Label and Service Trades Council look on, Albany Mayor Erastus Corning II signs a "Union Label Week" proclamation in 1963, photographed by Ken Perry, Waterford, New York (Records of Glove Cities Area Joint Board).

In the course of pursuing the best interests of their members, unions may interact with numerous groups besides management. One such group is made up of political figures. The relationship between unions and politicians can be complex. Each has something the other wants--unions represent large blocks of voters, while politicians write the laws that can affect the conditions under which union members work.

For example, while it is not clear if members of the Capital District Union Label and Service Trades Council found a union label in the jacket of Mayor Erastus Corning II, they needed his support for "union label week" to be officially proclaimed in the City of Albany each year. In exchange, officials of the Council and the local joint boards of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America could endorse Mayor Corning each time he was up for re-election and encourage their members to vote for him.

Telegram, 1952
Telegram to the president of the Troy Area CIO PAC, dated August (?) 27, 1952 (Records of the Hudson Valley Area Joint Board, ACTWU)

The balance of power between labor and politicians can be delicate, often depending on the assumed power of the other. For labor organizations, a key factor is the size of their membership. As noted in a telegram sent to the president of the Troy Area CIO political action committee in 1952, "the fundamental requirement of our political action is registration of our membership." With the clout of their members behind them, union representatives do not hesitate to take their case to politicians, meeting with them and lobbying for the interests of their union and their members.

Council 82 News Release, April 20, 1983 News Release issued by Council 82 on April 20, 1983, regarding the statement on prison overcrowding made by Executive Director Joseph Burke to a joint hearing of the New York State Senate and Assembly (Records of Council 82).

Another way for labor organizations to get their message to legislators is to testify at public hearings held by various legislative committees. The testimony prepared for legislative hearings allows the union to clearly spell out its concerns and objectives while press releases relating to the testimony provide summaries of the key points.


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Digital Exhibit created by Cynthia K. Sauer, Consultant, and Brian Keough, Head, 2002
Copyright 2002 M.E. Grenander Department of Special Collections & Archives
Comments to bkeough@uamail.albany.edu