Demonstrators protest the fortieth annual ALEC convention at the Palmer Hotel in Chicago (Flickr/Mikasi)
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) will begin its fortieth annual convention in Chicago today. But not everyone at the downtown Palmer Hotel will be celebrating.
A coalition of labor, community and environmental groups from throughout the Midwest will gather to protest the group’s three-day conference throughout the week, with organizers expecting the largest actions against ALEC since the group first drew attention in 2011 for its role in providing model legislation written by corporations pushing a broad right-wing, pro-corporate agenda.
A crowd of forty protesters took over the lobby of the Palmer Hotel on Monday, with six people arrested as religious, environmental and labor activists denounced ALEC. A group of several dozen hoodie-wearing protesters staged a die-in at the hotel this morning, noting the group’s role in spreading Stand Your Ground laws that helped protect George Zimmerman after shooting unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin, a mass rally has been called for Thursday organized by the Chicago Federation of Labor, and other actions are expected throughout the week.
The protests highlight the role organized labor could play in opposing ALEC. Other progressive organizations like environmentalists and civil rights activists oppose ALEC’s agenda, but none possess the resources and membership size of unions.
Targeting ALEC would certainly be in labor’s self-interest: anti-worker and anti-union legislation has been a central focus of the group, with model legislation that includes “right to work” laws (PDF), repealing the minimum wage (PDF) and opposing future minimum wage increases (PDF), and other pro-business labor laws. Their fingerprints have been on a number of high-profile legislative battles on labor issues in recent years, including Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker’s 2011 Budget Repair Bill that led to the state capitol’s occupation, Michigan Republican Governor Rick Snyder’s right-to-work legislation late last year, and anti-worker (as well as anti-choice) legislation in North Carolina behind the state’s Moral Mondays protests.