Unhealthy Partnerships: The Tobacco Industry and African American and Latino Labor Organizations (2010)

Authors: Annaebel Raebeck, Richard Campbell, and Edith Balbach

Abstract

The tobacco industry in the 1980s began to form relationships with outside groups for assistance on key policy issues due to its own poor credibility in the policy arena. This strategy allowed the industry to advance its own interests while seeming to match the agendas of very different organizations. Between 1988 and 1998, the tobacco industry developed coalitions with the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), representing African American trade unionists, and the Labor Coalition on Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), representing Latino trade unionists. APRI and LCLAA each adopted resolutions supporting industry positions on smokefree worksites and excise taxes, issues on which they had not previously taken positions, and promoted these positions to their members, political leaders and the public. They also supported the industry’s youth programs. This research relied upon a review of background literature and document searches through the Legacy Tobacco Documents Library and Tobacco Documents Online to examine the development of the excise tax coalition. The tobacco industry built support with APRI and LCLAA by framing policy positions in line with the organizations’ interests, creating institutional arrangements that circumvented direct funding from the industry, and enhancing the industry’s ability to influence excise tax debates indirectly. Although tobacco control advocates do not have the financial resources of the tobacco industry at their disposal, they can learn from tobacco industry techniques as they seek to build coalitions with people of color in the labor movement. Tobacco control advocates can both counter tobacco industry issue frames and also align their interests with those of working people of color by working on other issues of interest to this population, including health care and worker health and safety.