This election is about change for working people, and Alaska is a state that hangs in the balance.
Many people across the country are paying attention to Alaska’s U.S. Senate race, as AFL-CIO endorsed Democrat Mark Begich attempts to unseat indicted 40-year incumbent Ted Stevens. But that isn’t the only race that could signal substantial change in Alaska.
Democrat Ethan Berkowitz is posing a serious threat to 35-year incumbent Don Young in the race for Alaska’s only U.S. House seat.
Berkowitz demonstrated his commitment to working people while serving in the Alaska State Legislature.
As State House Minority Leader, Berkowitz made every effort to defend defined benefit pension plans for Alaska’s public employees. "Senate Bill 141 took away pension benefits from workers in the state of Alaska. It was the worst piece of legislation that I saw in all of my time in Juneau. I believe that if you work hard and play by the rules you have earned the right to a secure retirement."
Because he believes that all working people should be able to retire with dignity, Berkowitz has pledged to fight Social Security privatization with same persistence he applied to the Alaska pension battle.
Berkowitz appears poised to step onto the national stage and tackle the toughest issues, such as the health care crisis. "We can take the steps that are necessary to get to universal health care . . . I’ve seen too often what happens when families have to choose between eyeglasses for one child or dental work for another. I’ve seen what happens when seniors have to choose between rent and prescription drugs. We should never be in that position. We are bigger than that, we’re better than that, and we have the ability to fix this problem."
As the husband of an AFT member, Berkowitz regularly cites the labor movement for contributing to the health of the middle class, as well as to his own standard of living. Perhaps that personal experience is why he has come out in such strong support of the Employee Free Choice Act:
"We need to pass the Employee Free Choice Act so that working people have the ability to form unions without fear of retaliation and corporate power. This is about basic American rights."
Ethan Berkowitz is creating a dilemma for many Alaskan union members, who feel a certain amount of loyalty towards Don Young, in part because he also supports the Employee Free Choice Act. The Alaska AFL-CIO has given a dual endorsement to Democrat Ethan Berkowitz and Republican Don Young in this U.S. House Race.
"In a world where politics is often a choice between the lesser of two evils, Alaskans should be excited to have two quality candidates who will support the Employee Free Choice Act and the right of working people who choose to form unions," says Vince Beltrami, President of the Alaska AFL-CIO.
The country will be watching as Alaska makes its choice.