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PORTSIDELABOR  August 2011, Week 3

PORTSIDELABOR August 2011, Week 3

Subject:

Some Unions to Skip 2012 Democratic Convention

From:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Portside Labor <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 15 Aug 2011 22:22:42 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (145 lines)

Some Unions to Skip 2012 Democratic Convention
by Sam Hananel
Associated Press

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5igpv1TMnaSD6BMZfN7Z3YOgvodmA?docId=c4376f207714471e9ad1a567c9afa48b

WASHINGTON (AP) - About a dozen trade unions plan to
sit out the 2012 Democratic convention because they're
angry that it's being held in a right-to-work state and
frustrated that Democrats haven't done enough to create
jobs.

The move could pose a larger problem for President
Barack Obama next year if an increasingly dispirited
base of labor activists becomes so discouraged that it
doesn't get the rank-and-file to the polls in the usual
strong numbers.

The unions - all part of the AFL-CIO's building and
construction trades unit - told party officials this
week they are gravely disappointed that labor was not
consulted before Democrats settled on Charlotte, N.C.,
where there are no unionized hotels.

"We find it troubling that the party so closely
associated with basic human rights would choose a state
with the lowest unionization rate in the country due to
regressive policies aimed at diluting the power of
workers," Mark Ayers, president of the building trades
unit, wrote in a letter to Democratic Chairwoman Debbie
Wasserman Schultz.

The decision by the building trades came after a vote
by leaders of the unit's 13 affiliate unions, including
the Laborers, Painters and Electrical Workers unions.
Overall, they represent about 2.5 million members.

"There is broad frustration with the party and all
elected officials, broad frustration with the lack of a
union agenda," said Michael Monroe, chief of staff of
the building trades division. "People are looking for
outlets to express that frustration."

DNC spokeswoman Melanie Roussell said the organizers
"look forward to working with labor leaders from across
the country to make the convention a success."

"We were thrilled to have the support of local labor
leaders including the (state) AFL-CIO for Charlotte's
bid," Roussell said.

Despite the strong language in the letter, at least one
of the 13 unions says it is still considering whether
or not to go.

"The Teamsters Union has not gone through our own
internal decision process about the Democratic National
Convention," said spokeswoman Leigh Strope.

Monroe said the decision doesn't preclude individual
members of the unions from running as delegates, and
some of the unions apparently are still considering how
to proceed.

Many of the largest and most prominent unions,
including the National Education Association and the
Service Employees International Union, still plan to be
active participants in the convention. And local labor
leaders in North Carolina have praised the site choice.

But the angst goes beyond the trade unions. The
International Association of Machinists, which is not
part of the building trades, said it has also decided
to skip the convention after participating for decades.

"This is the union that came up with the idea for Labor
Day and this convention starts on Labor Day in a right-
to-work state," said IAM spokesman Rick Sloan. "We see
that as an affront to working men and women across this
country."

Monroe said the unions are being careful not to use the
term "boycott" because they don't want to damage
Obama's re-election prospects. He said money is also a
major factor, when unions are spending millions trying
to beat back efforts by Republican lawmakers to curb
union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states.

"It would be disappointing to our members to see us
doing business as usual, diverting resources that we
know are scarce, when we should be laser-like focused
on getting elected officials focused on the jobs
agenda," Monroe said.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka warned earlier this
year that unions would focus more of their energy and
money on shoring up infrastructure in the states and
less on boosting a single political party.

In the past unions have donated millions of dollars for
sky boxes and other sponsorships that usually help
underwrite the convention. But this year, the
Democratic National Convention Committee announced it
would no longer accept contributions from lobbyists,
corporations and political action committees, including
unions. Individuals are limited to $100,000 in
donations.

The choice of North Carolina in February provoked
immediate outrage among labor leaders, who said it was
another indication that Democrats take union support
for granted. But Democrats defended the decision,
saying it's part of party's push to win crucial swing
states in the South, including a state that Obama
carried in 2008.

Organized labor and Democrats had a similar squabble
over the choice of Denver for the 2008 convention. That
gathering was held at the nonunion Pepsi Center and
Denver had few unionized hotels. At one point,
Teamsters President James Hoffa threatened to "blow up"
the convention with picketing and protests if union
issues were not worked out.

But the two sides ultimately struck a deal to staff the
Pepsi Center with union employees.

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