AN OLD-SCHOOL LABOR GUY WHO WANTS JOBS FOR BLUE COLLAR WORKERS
By ART CHANCE
I don’t live in Juneau any more, but if I did, I’d probably be putting out yard signs for Don Etheridge’s Senate campaign. Don is a union guy, so he’s a Democrat, but he’s the kind of Democrat that you can do business with; the kind of Democrat I used to be long, long ago.
You can’t be a Mat-Su Valley sort of Senator from Juneau. I haven’t kept up with the district definitions lately, but Juneau is essentially two towns. Downtown Juneau and Douglas Island are the Northern Edge of Ecotopia; the Citizen’s Committee Against Virtually Everything (CAVE) people form the Politburo there. That’s District 33, which in 2014 gave Bill Walker the highest percentage of votes of any district in the state — 64 percent.
If you live “out the road” in the Mendenhall Valley and beyond you feel like you need a visa to go downtown or Douglas. Out the Road is District 34. In 2014, Bill Walker only received 49 percent of the vote for governor.
Who gets elected to the downtown House seat is decided over chardonnay and brie in somebody’s living room on Chicken Ridge or on 10th Street, so elections are pretty much a sham downtown. That enables the communists — excuse me — Democrats, to devote all their efforts to deciding who gets elected from the Valley, which in this case is the Mendenhall Valley.
Bill Hudson and Cathy Munoz have been Republicans elected from the Valley with enormous effort and expenditure to overcome the opposition from the Left. They’re better than a real Democrat, but not much.
After Sen. Kim Elton went to Hell, or as it’s called, Washington, D.C., to work under President Barack Obama, Dennis Egan became Juneau’s senator. Egan is far more conservative than Juneau Democrats would countenance had his name not been Egan. But there was no way Rep. Beth Kerttula was getting confirmed as a senator, so Egan pulled the short straw. Now Egan is leaving the Senate and the seat is, once again, open.
There is a line-up of lefty punks who’d like to be senator, and a Democrat Party that will pay for it.
And then there is Don Etheridge, who belongs to neither Democrats or Republicans. I don’t remember when I first met Don; he was an executive board member as I recall when I was on the executive board of Laborer’s Local 71 back in the 1970s or early ‘80s. We at least knew of each other, as we were on the union side. Unions, in those days, were made up of trade unionists, not communists.
In Local 71, we were understudies, disciples really, of Al Baffone. To this day even though I wound up on the opposite side of the table from him, I’ll freely admit that anything I ever knew about my trade, I learned from Al – and I beat him a few times.
What we were about in those days was simply getting a decent deal. We weren’t much about politics and most of us were pretty conservative, at least socially conservative. None of us were communists; we were the inheritors of George Meany’s purge of the communists from the AFL-CIO in the Fifties. We just wanted MORE, as Gompers said a century ago. We’d take what we could get, but we knew when there wasn’t any more blood in the turnip.
I went to work for State Labor Relations in 1987. My co-workers were mostly college-educated white collar elitists, and I was a former member of the Laborer’s Union; we had our issues. It really shocked me how much they hated the State’s blue collar workers, and they weren’t real fond of me because of my association with them. The reality was that Al Baffone and the Laborers had embarrassed them.
Don got special opprobrium because in those days he was the State’s highest paid employee. He was responsible for maintenance of the State’s ferry docks. And by operation of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the Local 71 agreement, Don pretty much lived on overtime, Local 71’s version of very lucrative overtime pay.
Later on, he was with the District Council of Laborers and I was with the State. As I recall we never met in a hearing room, but we spent a lot of time in the Capitol halls.
Don Etheridge is a rational, practical man; Juneau can and has done a lot worse.
Art Chance is a retired Director of Labor Relations for the State of Alaska, formerly of Juneau and now living in Anchorage. He is the author of the book, “Red on Blue, Establishing a Republican Governance,” available at Amazon. He only writes for Must Read Alaska when he’s banned from posting on Facebook. Chance coined the phrase “hermaphrodite Administration” to describe a governor who is simultaneously a Republican and a Democrat. This was a grave insult to hermaphrodites, but he has not apologized.