The Graduate Employees Organization, American Federation of Teachers Local 3550, endorses Jack Eaton in the 2018 Democratic primary for Ann Arbor mayor. We urge members of our local, of other unions, and of our community to vote for Mr. Eaton in the primary election on August 7, 2018. There are several reasons to be excited about Mr. Eaton’s support for public unions. Our endorsement of Mr. Eaton, however, is qualified by our serious concerns with other elements of his platform.
Despite their differing positions, neither Mr. Eaton nor his opponent have acceptable perspectives on police. In particular, Mr. Eaton’s position of wanting to expand the police force will make our community more dangerous. Ann Arbor is riddled with white supremacy. Some residents regularly wield the police as a weapon of terror against Black, Latinx, and other marginalized people in our community, as we’ve seen most recently outside The Blind Pig. Efforts to increase traffic enforcement, particularly around brake lights and pedestrian safety, disproportionately target and harm those of us with the least resources. GEO members, specifically, should recall the harassment and mass arrests that Ann Arbor police used against members in our union’s early days. While Mr. Eaton has spoken with community organizations seeking genuine oversight of the police force, his platform does not demonstrate sufficient support for these organizations’ – and our – concerns.
Police violence cannot be disentangled from labor issues. Police weaponize the language and practices of labor, using their unions to protect officers who commit assault or murder. Additionally, we recognize that police violence plays out along racial and class lines, disproportionately targeting communities of color and people experiencing poverty. GEO advocates for the material needs of all; we support robust civilian oversight of police in order to empower marginalized communities as a tool for our collective liberation.
Despite this, Mr. Eaton has a long history of work we support within and for the labor movement, including recent fights to protect unionized city positions from attrition and likely privatization under the incumbent’s administration. This consideration means a great deal to us, to the Huron Valley Area Labor Federation, and to many working people in Ann Arbor. We look forward to working with Mr. Eaton as mayor to secure expanded rights and adequate material support for everyone in this community. We endorse Mr. Eaton because we believe that Mr. Eaton’s strong positions in support of working people, however inconsistent with his stance on police, make him a less harmful candidate overall than his rival.
We look forward to opportunities to persuade Mr. Eaton to fully support Transforming Justice Washtenaw’s recommendations for civilian oversight of the police force. We call on Mr. Eaton to recognize that police officers are not adequate or acceptable providers of material support for individuals in need or crisis, and to advocate for allocating Ann Arbor’s entire share of the mental health and safety millage toward non-coercive social services. Finally, we look forward to replacing an incumbent whose insistence on police control of any oversight board, contempt for racial justice organizers, and openness to harmful privatization projects make him unfit to serve Ann Arbor in his current position.
How GEO Makes Endorsements
GEO’s involvement in electoral politics has varied throughout our 45 year history. For the most part the last decade has seen little to no involvement, beyond occasional voluntary canvassing efforts, and a brief uptick immediately prior to the passage of Right to Work legislation in Michigan in 2013. However, following increasing calls from the membership, this past year GEO distributed an online survey to gauge members’ (current) preferences for electoral involvement. Respondents (N=214 as of 7/17/18) overwhelmingly agreed that they would like to see GEO provide information on, and where relevant, endorsements for local races, especially those that would directly impact our members.
In response to this feedback, GEO formed the Electoral Action Subcommittee, which then drafted an Electoral Involvement Procedure, which was ratified by the Stewards’ Council and quickly put into practice in preparation for important upcoming local races, including the UM board of regents election. The Electoral Involvement Procedure outlines three options for how GEO can engage with local electoral races: endorsement, cooperation, and education.
We strongly encourage high member participation in this new process of electoral involvement. Relevant procedures, practices, messaging and framing will all require regular, ongoing input from members in order to best reflect what we want out of our involvement in electoral politics. We welcome all members to join the Electoral Action Subcommittee, which meets Wednesdays from 1:30-2:30 in the GEO office, 339 E. Liberty St, Ste. 340. Members can also participate in this important work by talking to their stewards and attending GMMs. We also strongly encourage members to become and remain engaged in local politics not only during but after elections! Endorsements require citizen accountability in order to produce the best effects for our members and the broader community.