ALEC is not OK

May 9, 2013

Matt Corpolongo reports on a protest against a ruthless corporate lobbying groups.

MORE THAN 600 protesters, the majority of them union members, turned out in Oklahoma City on May 2 to against a task force summit meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

The march was organized by the AFL-CIO and was overwhelmingly attended by members of the Teamsters, AFSCME, and the firefighters and steelworkers unions, among other groups. Some Teamsters traveled from Nebraska and Minnesota to take part in the event. Many of them were African American.

In addition to organized labor, activists involved in Occupy Oklahoma and Idle No More also attended.

Union members brought an inflatable pig, dressed in a top hat and suit, to help decorate ALEC's meeting, which was held at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City.

International Association of Fire Fighters President Harold Schaitberger told the crowd that the sole purpose of ALEC was to "develop the most anti-worker, anti-employee, anti-union, anti-middle class, pro-business, pro-corporation policies, legislation and agenda possible."

Labor activists marching in Oklahoma to say "ALEC is not OK"
Labor activists marching in Oklahoma to say "ALEC is not OK"

Union demonstrations like this in Oklahoma, which is a "right to work" state, are a rarity, as the suppression and strangulation of organized labor has been a political staple in the Sooner state for several decades.

Speakers largely called on protesters to oppose Republicans like Gov. Mary Fallin and to vote out politicians connected with ALEC from office. Unfortunately, they didn't talk about the many Democratic legislators in Oklahoma who are also involved with ALEC.

ALEC, WHICH has had a hand in shaping legislation in Oklahoma for decades, is like most corporate PACs. They present grand ovations regarding their support of the Constitution as well as specific rights such as freedom of assembly and the press.

But the day following what was probably the largest protest of ALEC to date, the organization decided that some rights weren't all that great, especially if there was the possibility of bad press.

Prior to the march, a coalition of Oklahoma workers and civil rights activists reserved space within the Cox Convention Center for a public forum and screening of the Bill Moyers' film The United States of ALEC. The forum was to include speakers from the Center for Media and Democracy, AFSCME, Common Cause and the ACLU, along with others from ALEC's "most wanted" list.

The meeting was set for May 3, and ALEC members were invited to attend the forum. The day that the forum was set to take place, the Renaissance Hotel and the convention center informed the forum organizers that ALEC possessed rights to all of the rooms in the Cox Convention Center and that the event would have to be moved.

So instead of having the forum in a comfortable conference hall, it was relocated to the floor of an ice-hockey rink, which provided cold conditions for those in attendance.

Despite the harsh inconvenience, a sizeable and enthusiastic audience turned out for the screening and forum. Additionally, any news media working for independent or left-leaning papers, television channels or periodicals were not invited to observe or report the proceedings of the ALEC convention, even though they registered in advance and were given initial clearance.

So much for "freedom of the press."

ALEC supports policies that are not only anti-labor, but are also anti-woman, homophobic and racist. In fact, the authors of the "personhood" bill in Oklahoma are strong supporters of ALEC and receive enormous campaign contributions from the organization.

Unfortunately, the event organizers didn't discuss these sexist and homophobic aspects of ALEC, which would have underlined the importance of solidarity between the struggles against discrimination with the fight for workers' rights--or as the old labor slogan goes, an injury to one is an injury to all.

There's a growing left in the state of Oklahoma, and the march and rally is indicative of that fact. It's growing and it's angry, but it is still developing.

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