Jobs with Peace

Activists with the 1986 Los Angeles Jobs with Peace campaign hold signs for Proposition V outside the International Ladies Garment Workers union hall on MacArthur Park. The building is now the UCLA James M. Lawson, Jr. Worker Justice Center, home of the UCLA Labor Center.

How can progressive political movements win power in geographically expansive and multiracial cities like Los Angeles? The answer, according to the Los Angeles Jobs with Peace campaign was “coalition architecture,” an intentional strategy to link the interests of organized labor with the peace movement, the women’s movement, and the African American civil rights movement through the shared goal of creating good jobs for all by redirecting money from military to domestic spending. In 1984 and 1986, the campaign backed citywide ballot initiatives and built a network of supporters at the precinct level to turnout voters. The 1984 Proposition X called on the city to research and report on pension and contract funds that flowed to military contractors. It passed by a comfortable margin. Proposition V in 1986 would have established a commission to advise the city on how to redirect funds away from military contractors. Proposition V faced a well-funded opposition campaign from business interests and lost by a wide margin. Despite the defeat, the campaign built an effective get-out-the-vote operation at the precinct level that would be the basis of future progressive victories.

Jobs with Peace organizers explained the campaign strategy in a 1986 pamphlet. The campaign aimed to be at “the intersection point of progressive movements,” rallying around shared goals without demanding coalition members abandon their own goals. In the language of the diagram, more jobs and services would be secured by redirecting federal spending from the military to social needs. The new jobs and services would first go to those hardest hit by plant closures and job segregation: Black, Latinx, and women workers. With this formulation, the campaign hoped to bridge divides between organized labor, the peace movement, and the African Americans, Latinx, and women’s liberation movements.

A diagram describing the links between organized labor, the peace movement, and the women's and civil rights movements.
A diagram from Los Angeles Jobs with Peace describes the campaign’s political strategy.

The 1986 campaign was based in rented offices in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union (ILGWU) hall on MacArthur Park. After the election, Jobs with Peace activists shifted to support the union leadership campaign of Maria Elena Durazo for head of H.E.R.E. Local 11. From the same offices and using the same computers to compile lists of voters, they helped Durazo to victory as the first Latina to head a major union local in Los Angeles. The ILGWU hall later became the UCLA Downtown Labor Center and in 2020 was renamed the James Lawson Worker Justice Center.

Images from Jobs with Peace Campaign Report (Winter 1987) and The Los Angeles Jobs with Peace Precinct Network (1986), Anne and Carl Braden Papers, Wisconsin Historical Society.

Vollmer, Ted. “Prop. X on City Ballot: L.A. Voters Asked to Judge Reagan Defense Policies PROP. X.” Los Angeles Times (1923-1995), September 16, 1984, sec. Part II.