Protestors Spotlight ALEC Confab, Again

DALLAS–Led by North Texas Jobs With Justice, the Dallas AFL-CIO and other progressive groups, some 500 protesters descended on the secret conference in Dallas of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the cabal of right-wing corporate chieftains and their political puppets.

Three protesters were able to crash the lobby of the conference hotel and chain them-selves to interior trees before hotel security hauled them out.  Two more draped a sarcastic “welcome” banner over the hotel lobby’s interior upstairs ledge.  No charges were filed.

Demonstrators shone a spotlight on ALEC’s anti-worker, pro-plutocratic agenda and the close ties between its business lobbyists and Right Wing GOP politicians, including those – such as Gov. Rick Perry, R-Texas, and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich — addressing the secret conference.  Perry is considering running for president in 2016.

ALEC, which met from July 29-August 1, is known for its virulent Right-Wing agenda.  That includes laws stripping workers of collective bargaining rights, schemes to destroy teacher tenure, plans to gut workers compensation and pensions, and – to prevent its foes from succeeding – so-called “Voter ID” laws which effectively end the right to vote for millions of workers, women, students, minorities and the elderly nationwide.

It’s also known for its effectiveness: Since the 2010 GOP electoral sweep, ALEC-written anti-worker, anti-union, pro-corporate legislation has sailed through Republican-run legislatures.  GOP governors – led by Wisconsin’s Scott Walker – eagerly push it and sign it.

But ALEC gained national infamy when its “stand-your-ground” shoot-on-sight law, enacted by the heavily GOP Florida legislature, let neighborhood watch “volunteer” George Zimmerman shoot and kill unarmed African-American teenager Trayvon Martin years ago.

All that brought the protesters to the streets of Dallas, a city that has incubated Right Wing hate for decades, up to and including murder.

The activists also held their own counter-ALEC events, including a seminar on countering corporate campaign financing, and a sarcastic “hoodie fashion show” outside an ALEC-only fashion show at Neiman Marcus during the ALEC confab.  Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie when Zimmerman shot him.

“I’m here because this bunch over here, corrupt coziness between corporate power and our state lawmakers all over the country are stealing our democracy and so we have to stand up,” said progressive columnist and one-time Texas state official Jim Hightower.  “The powers that be aren’t going to save us on this one because they own the powers that be.  So, we the people have got to get out here and alert other people of what’s going on.”

ALEC “is going to continue to push an anti-worker narrative,” Pamela Reséndiz, the Dallas AFL-CIO mobilization coordinator, told several media outlets. “Whether it’s Right To Work, or whether they’re trying to take away pensions from workers, or whether it is to cut out overtime pay, their policies affect everyone, regardless of whether you’re in a union or not.”

Meanwhile, not content with co-opting states, ALEC set up a front group to take over local governments.  That group, the American City County Exchange, held its first workshops during ALEC’s conference, the Guardian reported.  One was titled “Releasing Local Governments from the Grip of Collective Bargaining.”

-PAI