Top Democrats pander to undecided Labor coalition

Three top Democratic presidential contenders used a Chicago union meeting to pledge their fealty to organized labor Tuesday even though one union regarded as among the most politically influential in the nation has decided to hold off on any endorsement.

Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois and former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina made in-person pitches to the Change to Win group of unions. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York had to phone-in her plea for support due to transportation problems.

But the appeals of all three were firmly rooted in equating a strong labor movement to a strong middle class and promoting their plans for expanded health care as each looked to gain significant campaign ground troops from the 6 million people represented by the group's member unions.

Change to Win is made up of seven unions that have dissociated themselves from the AFL-CIO labor umbrella.

Still, the gathering occurred a day after the executive board of the Service Employees International Union, one of the nation's most politically active and growing labor unions, opted not to endorse any presidential contenders at this time. The move made it difficult for Change to Win to make any endorsement.

Anna Burger, SEIU's secretary treasurer who headed the Chicago session, said it would not be fair to describe Change to Win's endorsement process as being a "three-way toss-up" among Edwards, Clinton and Obama. But she said she could speak "glowingly" about all three contenders.

In March of last year, at Change to Win's first organizing convention, its lone speaker among potential presidential contenders was Edwards.

Noting his support for tougher trade standards, an increased minimum wage and efforts to make it easier for workers to unionize, Edwards told the group that the test to win those achievements is to evaluate the candidates and look at "who's been there in the trenches."

Obama noted he has a history of walking picket lines as a community organizer and politician. "I don't mind walking," he said.

Clinton maintained the Bush White House had created an era of anti-unionism. "They think unions have no place in America and they essentially tried to be the exterminators of the union bug," she said.

Also on Tuesday, the Rudolph Giuliani campaign distanced itself from a "$9.11 for Rudy" themed fundraising event this week, a reference to Giuliani's record as New York mayor after the Sept. 11 attacks. "These are two volunteers who acted independently of and without the knowledge of the campaign," Giuliani spokeswoman Maria Comella said. "Their decision to ask individuals for that amount was an unfortunate choice."


No comments:

Related Posts with Thumbnails