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Louisiana Democracy Project, Inc.


1999 was a terrific year, Louisiana Democracy Project helped to establish four new national organizations and supported the work of two regional organizations while continuing to help small local organizations address the needs of the community.
We held and participated in trainings, workshops, symposiums, retreats and forums throughout Louisiana and the nation.


Union membership in Louisiana jumped 13 percent in 1998, statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor show.
Some 134,000 of the 1.7 million workers in the state were union members, 15,000 more than in 1997, the figures show.
But at only 7.8 percent of the total work force, even union officials admit they have a long way to go. In fact, as a percentage of the states work force, organized labor is slightly weaker than it was in 1996, when 8.1 percent of Louisiana workers were union members.
John "Red" Bourg, president of the Louisiana AFL-CIO, said New Orleans is the scene of much of the unions efforts, especially in the hotel and food service industry.
In January 1998, 648 workers for Aramark Corp., which has the concessions contract at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, won the right to unionize.
However, 721 Aramark workers at the Louisiana Superdome lost a union vote, though the National Labor Relations Board has ordered a new election be held.
Wade Rathke, a union organizer in New Orleans, said that while several efforts to unionize hotels there failed, the AFL-CIOs new focus on the hospitality industry will find success in the coming years. Rathke is president of Hotroc, an organizing council of three New Orleans service unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
"Weve got some big organizations in progress," he said, adding efforts are also under way to unionize the citys garbage men.
Bourg said he is encouraged by the gains and predicted a bigger year for labor in 1999, noting the fate of the union election at New Orleans-based Avondale Industries Inc. could be resolved soon.
Avondales pending merger with Newport News Shipbuilding, which is unionized, is regarded as an encouraging sign for the New Orleans effort.
Nationwide, union membership inched upward to 16.2 million from 16.1 million, an increase of 0.6 percent.
"Here at the BLS, were not describing it as an increase," said Jennifer Martel, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Were not even sure if its statistically significant."
However, Lane Windham, a spokeswoman in the AFL-CIOs Washington headquarters, said the organization is glad to see the numbers increasing in states like California, South Carolina and Louisiana.
"I think that it shows that were organizing more, and some of that organization is starting to pay off," Windham said. "But weve still got a long way to go."
Paul Jarley, professor of management at LSU, said the AFL-CIO in recent years has found some success organizing in the retail and food service industries, where it feels hourly workers are an untapped resource.
"The future of the American workforce seems to be in the service industry rather than in manufacturing," he said. "In order to be an economic and political force, its going to be necessary to unionize in traditionally non-union industries. And there are more non-union workers to be had there."
Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, said the unions presence in the state is so small that a change in the percentage may sound more significant than it is.
"Theres so few union members in this state that (the) number is not that significant," he said.
Juneau said the private sector is not very eager to unionize because, in general, wages are higher, benefits are better and the workplace is safer than it was during the unions heyday decades ago.
"I dont think the average worker sees the need for the unions as much as in the past," he said.

Louisiana Democracy Project, Inc. is set to begin the new millenium with
a Funding Training for Nonprofit Organizations. This January 15, 2000 training will feature panelist from area foundations, government and organizational entities who specialize in nonprofit funding. We will explore grant writing, technology and non-traditional ways to access resources to do the work of the community.


Louisiana Democracy Project, Inc. held its training & planning gathering in conjunction with the Southern Catalyst Network in New Orleans. As Co-Chair of the conference I was able to address the 200 organizers on the need to take back our democracy by taking the for sale signs off our elections. Training included grantwriting, networking, coalition building.
The strategic planning session was part 2 of trainer Kenneth Jones time with us and included our vision statement, our mission statement and steps for the next 6 months. Thanks to Democracy South Precious and Mary from Arkansas were able to join us and not only did we learn together but we were able to bond and share which was wonderful, wonderful, wonderful.

Part 2 of the Institute for Conservation Leaderships executive directors training was held in New Orleans attended by Stephanie Anthony, Rev. Marjorie Thomas and Catherine Anthony. The sessions included activities on leadership development, media messages, case statements and other useful activities. After the sessions we developed a format for volunteer training and uses which should result in a more gratifying La. Democracy Project experience.

Louisiana Democracy Project took a coalition of 14 people to the National Emergency Gathering of Black Community Advocates for Environmental & Economic Justice. Meeting in Kenner Louisiana. The group included one Minister, one gun safety advocate and 12 youth. Louisiana Labor Neighbor provided funding for transportation. Many thanks to Albertha Hastens for facilitating the transportation.