1/12/08

Big Split: Long-serving Dem not union-enough?

A beaming Rep. Al Wynn, D-Md., stood before about 100 union members Thursday and touted the endorsements of janitors, teachers, firefighters and construction workers in his Feb. 12 primary showdown.

“Labor supports Al Wynn and labor has always supported Al Wynn,” Chuck Graham, the top official of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 26 shouted, kicking off the event billed as a “good old-fashioned labor rally” Thursday.

But despite Wynn’s claims to a 93 percent approval rating from the AFL-CIO, some labor is turning against him. Last month, the Service Employees International Union and a local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers threw their support to Donna Edwards, a Democratic primary challenger who wants the seat Wynn has held for 15 years.

Edwards lost narrowly to Wynn in the 2005 primary and is riding a trend of discontent with the Democratic status quo among some labor groups.

“It’s time for a change,” Ebs Burnough, the political director for the Service Employee International Union’s local 1199 Maryland/D.C. chapter said. “Al Wynn has been in office for far too long and he has not done anything to benefit his constituents.”

Wynn’s labor backers say that is unfair.

They reminded the crowd Thursday that he co-sponsored a bill called the Employee Free-Choice Act that would have made it much easier for unions to organize and he voted against free trade agreements including the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Burnough’s SEIU 1199, however, is the union that represents Prince George’s County hospital employees managed by Dimensions Healthcare System and he said the approaching meltdown in the county’s hospital system is one reason the union chose to endorse Wynn’s opponent.

“He has not in any way, shape or form been a leader in solving that issue, which is a huge problem for his constituents,” Burnough said.

Wynn himself said he had reached out to Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and asked him to help broach a solution to the hospital crisis, and it was O’Malley who did not step up to the plate.

O’Malley told reporters in Pikesville Thursday that he’s been working with County Executive Jack Johnson and is hopeful the hospital situation will soon be resolved.

Jos Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington AFL-CIO Council, told union members gathered at Wynn’s event to be wary of change for the sake of change alone. “A new broom may sweep clean but an old one knows the corners,” Williams said.

(examiner.com)

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