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Keith Maddox was sent to San Diego by the national AFL-CIO to take over as emergency trustee of the local affiliate. Now, he has earned solid marks from his counterparts and the business community and plans to stay. The Labor Council will also reform the process of who gets to be leader.
Last year, the national AFL-CIO took over its local affiliate, the San Diego-Imperial Counties Labor Council. It sent one of its employees, Keith Maddox, in to run it as a trustee.
Now, Maddox has agreed to stick around. He’s developed a reputation of working well with both his union counterparts and the business community. He’s gotten some credit for pulling together the coalition pushing the measure to expand the Convention Center and fund homeless services with an increase to the hotel room tax in the city of San Diego.
“It’s been great to get in a room and work out a deal with him, which we did. I think Keith has made a difference,” said Jaymie Bradford, COO of the Chamber of Commerce.
I asked Maddox a few questions.
Would you agree you’ve brought some change to leadership of the local labor movement that makes it easier to collaborate with business groups?
“I think so. But it’s also come about because of the power and strength of our labor movement. We want to be collaborative, because some of the issues we face here in the city are way bigger than what we can solve as a labor movement.”
Do you think that the labor movement has gotten distracted at all with social justice causes?
“No, they’re inseparable. Labor and civil rights are inseparable, and they can achieve great things together.”
What’s next: Maddox retired from his position with the AFL-CIO and is permanently on with the Labor Council. He’s still considered a trustee, though. And he likely won’t be taking the same role of “secretary treasurer” as previous leaders had. They’re going through a major change of the constitution of the local entity. Previously, the Labor Council leader was elected by its board.
“We are going to move to an executive secretary treasurer. It’s not just about being able to get elected. In the future, you will have to not only meet criteria to get elected but also have to have a resume. There will be an interview and certification process,” he said.
He said that just being able to survive an election was not enough.
“That can cause real issues when you may get elected but not have the ability to do the job,” Maddox said.
And the Chamber wants to do more things together — like funding and policies that would make it easier to build housing.
“This campaign has brought this group together in a way that we could go down and stand together on things,” Bradford said.
Related: The Union-Tribune’s Michael Smolens checks in on the really bad Election Day the previous leader of the Labor Council, Mickey Kasparian, had.
This post originally appeared in the June 16 Politics Report.