3/31/08

Dems: Workers need no-vote unionization

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Schellinger told a Richmond audience Saturday he wants the Indiana governor's job because the state "deserves better leadership." The crowd of more than 50, comprised mostly of members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a public employees' union, listened to Schellinger's remarks during an hour-long stop at the Richmond Holiday Inn on National Road East.

"I want to stand up for working families," the 47-year-old architect and native of South Bend said.

Schellinger faces Jill Long Thompson in Indiana's May 6 primary. He has never run for public office, and, dressed casually in a sweater, he emphasized his blue-collar background Saturday.

AFSCME endorsed Schellinger for governor in late 2007.

One of eight children, the businessman said he "learned a work ethic" putting himself through college at Notre Dame and working the night shift "grinding steel."

"It was an experience that taught me the importance of representing working families."

The candidate talked sporadically about what he called Indiana's most pressing issues: jobs, property taxes, education and health care.

He won his audience's loudest applause when he discussed project labor agreements and his support of the Employee Free Choice Act, which allows workers the freedom to decide whether to join a union. [N.B. - the proposal would ban supervised, secret-ballot unionization elections.]

"On day one in the first hour, I am going to sign an executive order reinstating collective bargaining," he said.

The candidate said Gov. Mitch Daniels, a Republican, is "out of touch with where Indiana is as a state" and criticized his inaction on property taxes.

"This governor stood idle for three years on this tax crisis," he said.

Schellinger said he has a plan to "pick up" Indiana jobs, which includes increasing workforce skills training, working with already-existing small businesses, and investing in "green" technologies.

He said he's working on a health care plan, details about which would be released this week.

Saturday's attendees seemed to appreciate Schellinger's personal history, despite his lack of political experience.

"He comes from a different background ... more of a come-up-to-it instead of (already) being at the top," said Steve Case of Muncie, who works for Delaware County Sheriff's Department.

"We need to be more of a family and everybody work together," Case said. "... I think he'll do that."

Ron Moore, 50, works for Richmond Parks and Recreation Department and said after the event that Schellinger spoke "from the heart."

"I'm glad he's a people person instead of someone who's just going to throw things at us," Moore said. "I thought he was real straightforward."

Libbie Hardwick, 51, who also works for Richmond Parks and Recreation, said Schellinger's pledge to sign bills protecting unions highlighted the event for her.

"(He's) interested in local governments," she said.

Richmond Mayor Sally Hutton attended Schellinger's session. She said earlier this month she does not endorse candidates in primary elections.

Long Thompson met with Palladium-Item's editorial board March 13. Her campaign said Thursday she would likely be in the Richmond area "in the next few weeks."

(pal-item.com)

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