Stern-ordered SEIU violence caught on video

SEIU-CNA Battle At Labor Notes Conference-SEIU Homecare Worker Dies

At the 2008 Labor Notes Conference in Detroit April 12, hundreds of SEIU members were bussed into the convention to protest the alleged "union busting" by CNA Executive Director Rose Ann DeMoro. This video shows some of the protest and interviews with Jim West of Labor Notes and SEIU nurse supporter Susan Horne from Ohio.

The conference participants and staff stopped the SEIU staff and supporters from entering the banquet and the police eventually forced them to leave the facility. One worker Diane Feeley who just retired from UAW 235 of American Axle had a head injury and SEIU Michigan homecare worker David Smith also passed out and died during the confrontation.

Related video: "SEIU's violent eruption up-close, on-scene"


Will Barack repudiate Stern's terror tactics?

Who's the latest promoter of the California Nurses Association, the labor union that's causing a split in the ranks of California's labor ranks and jeopardizing the campaigns of progressives? That would be the California Republican Party. The CRP issued a press released yesterday afternoon from Chairman Ron Nehring that lashes out at SEIU and Sen. Barack Obama:
"After a difficult performance in yesterday's Democratic Presidential debate, Barack Obama is on the campaign trail today trying to blame his poor performance on the 'slash-and-burn' politics of old he so often decries.

But will Obama denounce the 'thug like behavior' that prompted a California Superior Court today to issue a restraining order against the Service Employees International Union's stalking, use of violence, and the harassment of officers, directors, and staff of the California Nurses Association?

Obama promises he can follow up his lofty ideals with action. Here is an opportunity for the freshman senator to do so. Will Barack Obama personally denounce the deplorable, thuggish behavior of his supporters? Or will he fail to lead yet again and defer to a campaign aide to make peace in the press?"
This is yet more evidence of CNA's destructive political agenda. Even the Republicans are taking advantage of the nurses union's damaging attacks on SEIU. Shame on CNA.


Barack pumps 'no-vote' unionism in South

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama said Thursday he would solve the problems facing North Carolina’s working families by pursuing trade policies to keep jobs from migrating overseas.

In an interview with The Fayetteville Observer on Thursday, the senator also discussed the Iraq war and the sacrifices military families have made.

Obama, who has vowed to bring the troops home from Iraq in 2009, said he respects those sacrifices.

“They never die in vain when serving this country,” Obama said of the more than 4,000 troops killed in Iraq. “They have served magnificently. Saddam Hussein is gone, and that’s a good thing. They have given the Iraqis the opportunity of self government. ... The Iraqis have not taken advantage of that.”

In Iraq, “the fault has never been in our troops’ performance,” Obama said. “The fault is in the civilian strategy.”

The interview, at East Carolina University, preceded a speech to 8,000 people gathered in Minges Coliseum-Williams Arena.Earlier in the day, he took questions from a crowd of more than 1,000 people in Raleigh, where he promised to use the military wisely if elected.

Obama said in the interview he would enforce existing regulations governing unions and break the cycle of declining employment by creating thousands of jobs.

Obama has said he supports the rights of workers to unionize. Asked about union efforts at the Smithfield Packing plant in Tar Heel, Obama said he supports the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers who want collective bargaining to organize by signing cards, stripping away their right to an NLRB-supervised, secret-ballot election.

“That should be respected,” he said.

Obama said companies have learned how to delay, stall and intimidate union efforts. The Bush administration, he said, has not enforced legislation affecting unions.

“It will be a different philosophy when I’m president,” he said.

Plant closings over the past decade have cost thousands of people their jobs in the Cape Fear region. North Carolina has lost more than 30,000 jobs since the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect in 1994. While acknowledging that “global trade is here to stay,” Obama said keeping jobs in North Carolina goes beyond changing NAFTA.

He said companies that ship jobs overseas should not be rewarded with tax credits. Those credits should go to companies that keep jobs in the United States, he said.

Trade agreements need to have rules attached governing standards for overseas labor, environmental protection and product safety. Neither NAFTA nor the Central America Free Trade Agreement has such standards, he said.

The lack of standards means toys with lead paint end up in American stores, he said.

To turn around the job market, Obama stressed a frequent campaign promise: creating more “green” jobs to improve the environment. He said he wants to spend $150 billion on an energy program he compares to the efforts that put a man on the moon and developed the atomic bomb. The scope of the program includes more fuel efficient cars — ones that get at least 40 miles per gallon — along with biofuels and more solar and wind power.
Schedule balance

During the interview in a classroom at the arena, Obama sat slightly hunched in a chair with an American flag off to the side. It was one of several interviews he gave to local media.

He and Sen. Hillary Clinton, his opponent for the Democratic nomination, have made several appearances in the Tar Heel state in advance of the May 6 primary.

Clinton is in Winston-Salem today for an appearance with poet and friend Maya Angelou.

Obama said Thursday he didn’t know whether his schedule would permit a return to Fayetteville. On March 19, he spoke to a small audience at Fayetteville Technical Community College, reiterating to a nationally televised audience his stance on terrorism. Some in Fayetteville criticized the invitation-only event because it was not open to the public.

“I don’t know what my schedule is, but we try to balance the events,” Obama said Thursday. “When you have an open event with 8,000 people, it’s difficult to have a question-and-answer session or deliver a lengthy speech on a complex topic like Iraq. We try to mix it up.”

Obama said his campaign would try to return to the Cape Fear region.

“We will be campaigning actively in North Carolina over the next few weeks.”

During his Greenville speech, Obama amplified many of his comments about improving the economy.

“Our biggest problem is not our technical challenges,” he said. “It is our politics doesn’t work. Our government can’t deliver” because the process is controlled by special interests and lobbyists.

He also talked about his potential role as commander in chief. During Tuesday’s televised debate, Clinton and Obama both said they would withdraw troops from Iraq regardless of the advice of military leaders.

“My job as commander in chief is to keep you safe,” he said. “I won’t hesitate to strike against those who will do us harm.”


Publicly-funded labor activism a hot potato

Union members and supporters rallied Thursday to demand that the University of Michigan continue its Labor Studies Center, which offers labor conferences and adult education geared to union workers.

The fate of the center, established in 1957, is in doubt because U-M is reorganizing the center's parent institute on campus. University officials have spoken with schools that include Wayne State University and Michigan State University about taking over the role of providing the labor conferences.

Reporter Dave Gershman can be reached at 734-994-6818 or dgershman@annarbornews.com.
About 40 union members and supporters rallied outside the Fleming Administration Building before the monthly meeting of the U-M Board of Regents, and four supporters of the center later addressed the regents during the public comments period.

U-M's Vice President for Research Stephen Forrest said after the regents meeting that no decisions have been made and that no conferences have been canceled.

"We're working quite energetically to figure out where the best opportunities exist for strengthening the programs," Forrest said.

The center employs four full-time-equivalent people, including a research scientist, though others on campus have a connection to the center, supporters said.

Several of the speakers said the conferences give important leadership training to people in the labor movement, and allowed them personally to advance in their unions and improve their lives. They also said the conferences open the university's doors to working people in diverse cities like Flint and Detroit.

"The people who built this building, the people who cleaned these rooms for the first time, sat in the classroom not as a person who worked there, but as a student to learn," Elise Bryant, a U-M alumna who is now a faculty member at the National Labor College in Silver Spring, Md., said in addressing the regents.

The focus of U-M's Labor Studies Center on working class women and minorities sets it apart from other universities, she said.

After the comments period, S. Martin Taylor, D-Grosse Pointe Farms, asked university officials to provide a report on the center and its future. "The speakers were extremely compelling," added Regent Larry Deitch, D-Bingham Falls.

Regent Kathy White, D-Ann Arbor, cited the center's work with diverse communities and said U-M faces increased challenges to maintain diversity on campus after the passage of Proposal 2, the constitutional amendment banning some types of affirmative action in public education.

In December, Forrest informed the regents that the parent unit of the Labor Studies Center, the Institute for Labor and Industrial Relations, was being given a new name and mission. The Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy will focus on promoting the understanding of the major forces restructuring the economy and the impacts on families and communities; evaluate the effects of economic interventions geared toward increasing innovation and improving the economy; and provide economic development intervention services to communities undergoing economic transition.


Shameful union blackballs Fi-Core members

In a post-strike missive, WGA leaders on both coasts sent out a joint letter Friday to its membership revealing the names of 28 members who resigned from the union during the 100-day strike.

"In the face of enormous personal and financial hardship on the part of many, you sacrificed in the knowledge that your refusal to work would reap benefits not only for yourselves but countless others in the creative community, now and in the future," WGAW president Patric Verrone and his counterpart in the east, Michael Winship, said in a statement. "Yet among the many there were a puny few who chose to do otherwise, who consciously and selfishly decided to place their own narrow interests over the greater good."

The 28 writers elected to file for financial core status, in which writers resign from the union, but still pay a percentage of the dues but do not face fines from the WGA for working during the strike. Covered under the National Labor Relations Act, the WGA must still represent fi-core writers in bargaining and the writers do not lose any rights under their contract.

But Verrone and Winship sharply criticized the decision by those writers, writing they "must be held at ar's length by the rest of us and judged accountable for what they are strikebreakers whose actions placed everything for whic we fought so hard at risk."

A Web site link was included in the letter to the WGA West's Web site publicly listing 21 West Coast fi-core writers, while the WGA East chose to make their list of seven writers accessible only to members through their log-in. The majority of the 28 have worked on daytime soap operas, including "The Bold and the Beautiful," "Days of Our Lives" and "All My Children." (Read the full letter)

Listed for the WGAW were: Maria Arena, Marlene Poulter Clar, John F. Cosgrove, Paula F. Cwikly, Clem Egan, Barbara J. Esensten, Jeanne M. Grunwell, Dena Higley, Mark Christopher Higley, Meg Kelly, Michelle Poteet Lisanti, Terry Meurer, Shawn Morrison, James E. Reilly, John Ridley, Hogan Sheffer, John F. Smith, Darrel R. Thomas Jr., Gary Tomlin, Xxxxxx X. Xxxxxxxx (name removed, see: "WGA corrects FiCore blackball list"), Garin Wolf.

The WGAE members included: Pricilla Kay Alden, James Harmon Brown, Michael Conforti, Victor Gialanella, Josh Griffith, Frances Myers and Pete T. Rich.

Reps for some listed could not be immediately reached.

As result of their actions, the 28 writers can no longer vote in the guild's elections, run for guild office, attend meetings and other events or participate in the WGA awards.


Dems lay down for the Big Labor agenda

An administration-negotiated trade pact with South Korea should sail right through Congress, but will likely be held up by congressional Democrats. This pact would be a huge plus for U.S. exports since South Korea is among the 10 largest world economies and would add a sizable plus to America's outward shipments, as with the NAFTA deal.

The big hang-up for the past two years has been U.S. beef shipment holdups because of "mad cow disease" fears. This obstacle has now been eliminated and the signing of the pact would normally be imminent.

The problem is that any further U.S. trade agreements, no matter how propitious, would be dead on arrival.

The Congressional Democrats have already shown their protectionist hand due to their political alignment with organized labor, especially in a critical election year.

But the leftist Democrats would likely carry this negative trade stance into 2009, especially if they capture the White House in November.

This would reawaken the ghost of Smoot-Hawley, the congressional legislation responsible for putting up tariff walls in the early 1930s. This ushered in a period of protectionism, largely blamed for the longest depression in America's history (1930-1941), ending only with America's pre-World War II rearmament.

It would also put a crimp in the export boom, America's No. 1 hedge against a deepening recession. This new protectionism would tell the world that the U.S. in entering a new era of economic isolationism, with all the consequences that such action implies, as globalization has become irreversible worldwide.

- Morris R. Beschloss writes frequently for The Desert Sun. His "Global Economics" blog on mydesert.com is updated as news happens.


No comment from shameful UBC picketers

The "shame on" pickets were out again in Bakersfield on Thursday, this time at the Heart Hospital on Sillect Avenue. Eyewitness News has continued to investigate these protests by the Carpenters' Union, and we've learned a non-union group plans to file a complaint very soon.

The protest at the Heart Hospital involved a large group of picketers. As in past events, no one there would comment. The actions are organized by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America out of Los Angeles.

In many locations, the union posts large "Shame On" banners. But, Eyewitness News uncovered a situation at a Santa Barbara Business College renovation site in February, where the project manager says he was roughed up by union people.

That's the specific incident that will be the focus of a complaint planned by the Associated Builders and Contractors. Eyewitness News checked Thursday with spokesman Kevin Korenthal -- and he says they're putting final touches on the complaint.

It'll be filed with the National Labor Relations Board. Korenthal says they'll complain of coercive behavior, invasion of a job site and refusal to leave. They'll also complain the union engaged in acts of physical violence and threats of physical violence.

Associated Builders and Contractors is an organization of non-union contractors. "The union has pushed the envelope too far," Korenthal told Eyewitness News. "We think people are saying -- 'we've had it.'"

As for the union picket Thursday at the Heart Hospital -- again Bakersfield police were called out. Eyewitness News asked Sgt. Greg Terry about that.

"We go out and try to mediate as much as possible," says Sgt. Terry. "A lot of times it comes down to us monitoring them and looking for any violations of the law." Sgt. Terry says if the union is protesting, their actions are protected by law as free speech.

"They are allowed to be on the property and protest and say things. They can walk up and down the sidewalk, they can be on the physical property of the establishment -- again as long as they're not restricting or blocking people from going to or from the business or the establishment."

Sgt. Terry says the police have taken reports about assaults at the union protests, but he didn't have specific information on those cases.

Eyewitness News called three separate spokesmen from the Carpenters' Union on Thursday asking for comment about the picketing at the Heart Hospital. No one returned our calls.

We have also asked for comment about the Santa Barbara Business College incident. A union spokesman in Los Angeles told us "there was nothing like an assault" at the location -- but he would not offer specifics.

Associated Builders and Contractors spokesman Kevin Korenthal said Thursday that their complaint about the Santa Barbara Business College incident should be filed within days.

"We are eager to address this situation," said Korenthal. "We plan to do battle with these union actions on several different fronts."


UAW serves more strike notices on GM

General Motors Corp. avoided a strike at a Warren powertrain plant on Friday, but the United Auto Workers threatened to send workers to the picket lines at two other factories, including the one that makes the hot-selling Chevrolet Malibu.

UAW Local 31, which represents workers at the Malibu plant in Fairfax, Kan., gave the automaker a letter warning that workers will strike in five days if local contract issues remain unresolved, GM spokesman Dan Flores said Friday.

The union warned GM last week it would issue an official strike threat if progress wasn't made there in plant-level bargaining for a new contract. The Grand Rapids factory employs about 1,400 hourly workers, according to GM's Web site.


In an online newsletter to members earlier this month, plant Shop Chairman Steve Rop said negotiators from the International UAW were planning to join the talks on April 14.

"We will be meeting daily and receiving assistance from the International Union to get the best local agreement we can procure for the membership," Rop wrote in the newsletter.

Meanwhile, in the Lansing area, another 2,300 hourly workers spent a second day on the picket line after the UAW and GM resumed plant-level contract negotiations at the automaker's critical Delta Township factory. The UAW went on strike there on Thursday, hampering production of GM's popular trio of crossover SUVs.

Each strike and threat, the UAW says, is because GM and plant-level locals have failed to settle on local contracts that govern issues such as plant work rules and worker-filed grievances.

Tension lingering from last year's historic labor negotiations, in which the UAW agreed to major concessions including a two-tier system of pay, is likely a factor in the local bargaining, said Richard Block, a Michigan State University labor expert.

"It may very well be the union saying 'We've given up a lot and we're not going to give any more,' " he said.

Meanwhile, United Auto Workers members at GM Warren's factory are still on the job after a 10 a.m. strike deadline passed.

Talks continued through the night and into this morning between GM and the UAW over plant-level contract issues.

Both sides agreed to take a break and resume negotiations on Saturday morning, GM spokesman Dan Flores said.

The Warren factory, represented by UAW Local 909, employs about 1,000 workers and produces four- and six-speed transmissions.

Negotiations resumed this morning at the automaker's Delta Township plant near Lansing, where about 2,300 workers walked off the job Thursday, also citing local contract issues.

The Delta Township plant builds GM's popular trio of crossover SUVs, the Saturn Outlook, GMC Acadia and Buick Enclave.

GM has a 40 days supply of the Enclave and a 57 days supply of the Acadia, according to Ward's Automotive Group. The industry average is about 60 days' worth of vehicles.

The automaker is still negotiating local contracts with dozens of locals across the country, more than six months after it inked a landmark national contract with the union.

GM already is dealing with production woes from the prolonged strike at American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings Inc. The stoppage, in its seventh week, has forced GM to halt or slow production at about two dozen factories in the United States and Canada. Most of those plants either build or produce parts for GM's slow-selling full-size trucks and SUVs.


SEIU county workers to walk out

After continued unsuccessful negotiations with Solano County, members of Solano County's largest employee union will walk off the job Tuesday, union officials said Thursday. The union represents county health care, building cleaning and security workers, and other public employees.

The decision came after the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 members voted overwhelmingly against the county's latest contract offer last week, said Carlos Rivera, an SEIU communications coordinator.

"At noon on Tuesday union members will walk off the job for an extended unity break, which is a union-protected activity," Rivera said. "We will return to work at a time to be determined."

Rivers said of about 45 percent of the local SEIU members who voted, 86 percent voted against the county's offer.

Union members picketed around the county Thursday afternoon, including a lunchtime protest in front of the Vallejo Housing Authority building on Santa Clara Street.

Solano County spokesperson Steve Pierce said the county's main concern during the walkout will be maintaining community safety.

"Certain posts, like probation, are critical to public safety," Pierce said.

Rivera said the union's main problems with the proposed contract are not monetary.

Union members disagree with the county's proposed change to the disability program and fear that their long-term sick leave will be reduced from up to nine months to 12 weeks, Rivera said.

"People don't know when they will get sick and how long they will need to be out," Rivera said. "Members feel their job security will be at risk after 12 weeks."

Pierce said the county wants to get the long-term sick leave allotted to county workers in line with time allowed for city workers in Vallejo, Fairfield and Vacaville.

Under the proposal, if an employee is still unable to work after the 12 weeks is up, employers may donate more leave time or the employee can go on unpaid leave while retaining health insurance with the county, Pierce said.

Rivera said the union is also trying to secure employees' ability to work schedules that differ from the traditional five-day work week, with a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift.

The union wants to be consulted if the county examines the current alternative work schedules, he added.

"There are a lot of reasons to keep the alternative work schedule," Rivera said. "It not only helps the employees, but also benefits the services we can provide to the public."

Pierce said the county wants all scheduling options on the table and would invite union members to the discussion.

"The whole point of an alternative work schedule is to have the flexibility to meet the customers' needs," Pierce said.

Rivera said the union is waiting for the county to set a date for both sides to return to the negotiation table before the union presents a counter offer to the rejected contract.

"Members do not want to escalate the fight and we want to get back to providing services to the public," River said.

Pierce said after 11 months of negotiations, the county is very interested in resolving the contract issue.


SEIU members cleared in early-release of terrorist

Related story: "SEIU makes example of radical"

California prison officials on Friday cleared three clerks and two supervisors of misconduct in the premature release of former 1970s radical Sara Jane Olson. Olson's release date was miscalculated, leading to her parole from the Central California Women's Facility in Chowchilla on March 17, a year too early.

She was re-arrested five days later when the error was caught.

Olson, 61, is serving a 14-year sentence for the attempted bombing of Los Angeles police cars in the 1970s and a 1975 bank robbery in a Sacramento suburb in which a customer was shot to death.

Internal affairs investigators with the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation concluded that the three clerks who reviewed Olson's file "were not culpable of misconduct," said Scott Kernan, the department's chief deputy secretary.

Department spokesman Oscar Hidalgo said a supervisor and a manager who reviewed Olson's file also were cleared.

"It didn't appear there was any malicious misconduct here," Hidalgo said. "It was a very complicated case over three decades."

Olson's Sacramento County sentence was never calculated into her release date, leading officials to believe she was serving a 12-year sentence instead of her actual 14-year term. Inmates generally serve half their sentence, so she was released after serving six years, instead of seven.

Clerks and administrators reviewed her file multiple times since December without catching the error.

Olson was about to board a plane home to Minnesota when she was detained and sent back to prison. Her attorneys have asked a judge in Sacramento to order that she be released again.

The Service Employees International Union, which represents 15,000 civilian corrections employees, said the three clerks should not have been accused of wrongdoing.

Union Local 1000 President Jim Hard said the corrections department had tried to "make them into scapegoats."

The union issued a statement in which one of the three clerks blamed the confusion on an antiquated system that relies on paper records instead of computer tracking. The union filed a lawsuit last year claiming the department's records unit is understaffed and overwhelmed.

Olson, then named Kathleen Soliah, belonged to the underground Symbionese Liberation Army, best known for kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst. It also was involved in a 1974 shootout with Los Angeles police in which six SLA members were killed.

Olson changed her name and fled to St. Paul, Minn., where she married a doctor and raised three children. She was recaptured in 1999 and negotiated plea agreements on the California charges.


School pay cuts will preserve union-dues flow

At a time when food and gas costs are rising, Manatee schoolteachers and employees face a stark choice: take a 5 percent pay cut or watch your colleagues lose their jobs. As part of an effort to cut $21 million from next year's district budget, principals have submitted proposals to cut 300 to 400 jobs at schools, including teachers of electives, guidance counselors, janitors and secretaries.

But the district now says the layoffs can be avoided if all district employees take a pay cut next year. Teachers, bus drivers and other workers would need to take a pay cut of about 5 percent, while higher-paid administrators, including principals and assistants, would lose 7.5 percent of their salaries.

The district began the cost-cutting process Friday by eliminating 47 administrative positions, 33 of which were open. But the plan to cut pay rather than positions hinges on whether the unions representing teachers and support staff agree to the pay cut when they begin negotiations with the district in the next few months.

Justin Erickson, a vocational tech teacher at Haile Middle School in East Manatee, heard about the possible pay cuts at about 8 p.m. Wednesday when he was still at school working. On Friday, he planned to work until 10 p.m. to help students prepare for a science and technology competition in Orlando.

"Here we are working, giving our heart and soul every day, and the pay doesn't reflect the work for the efforts that any teacher puts in," Erickson said. "You have to take care of your family."

Asked if he would vote to accept a pay cut, Erickson said, "I don't know which way I would vote at this time."

School districts across the state are grappling with budget cuts resulting from reduced sales tax collections, decreased population growth and a troubled housing market.

The Manatee County School District employs about 7,000 people, making it one of the largest employers in the county. About 3,000 of those are teachers. The 47 administrative job cuts announced Friday include the director of high schools, who is retiring at the end of the school year, and an assistant superintendent job that was not filled.

The School Board will be asked to approve the salary reductions for administrative staff at a meeting on April 28.

Superintendent Roger Dearing said he understood that pay cuts would be tough, but he said cutting hundreds of jobs from schools would have too great an effect on students and remaining teachers.

"It's easier for everyone to sacrifice 5 percent than to ask 300 to 400 people to sacrifice 100 percent," he said. "If those hundreds of people are not going to be in the school system, the workload is going to be tremendous and there'll be a definite drop of service to our children."

But the pay cuts would set back progress the district has made in raising teachers' pay. In recent years, teachers' starting pay in Manatee has risen from 19th to sixth-highest in Florida.

"Even with this 5 percent cut, we'll still be competitive," Dearing said. "School districts all over Florida are laying off staff. What's going to happen to level of service for children in those schools?"

The local American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents about 1,000 custodians, bus drivers and other support workers in Manatee, plans to poll members by telephone next week. President Bruce Mohr said initial reaction was that some members would rather take a pay cut than risk losing their job or seeing colleagues laid off.

Pat Barber, president of the Manatee Education Association, which bargains on behalf of 2,700 teachers and teaching assistants, said teachers were being put into an unfair position.

"They deserve better than to be offered an option of seeing their colleagues lose their job or having their families suffer by having their pay reduced," Barber said.

If the pay cuts are rejected by district employees, elementary schools would each have to cut $125,000, middle schools would have to cut $165,000 and high schools would have to cut $360,000. One proposal, submitted by the principal of Braden River Middle School, would cut an electives teacher, a custodian, a clerical worker, discretionary funds and supplements paid to team teaching leaders, a yearbook adviser and the school newspaper adviser. Those cuts would total about $164,000.

In the meantime, Manatee school employees have a tough choice to ponder.

"I think it's frightening, but then again I guess I'd hate to see people lose their jobs," said Janice Pinsonneault, a seventh-grade math teacher at Braden River Middle School. "I think there should be other solutions."


Newsweek casts AFSCME voters as 'Archie Bunkers'

Why Do 'Archie Bunker' Voters Love Hillary?

Forget "Not as Bad as You Think." I had a new name for Clinton's final swing through Pennsylvania swing all ready to go: the "Glutton for Punishment" Tour. Checking Clinton's schedule after yesterday's appearance on the sylvan campus of Haverford College--a place packed, like most upscale suburban schools, with iPhone-toting Obamaniacs--I was surprised to see that her next stop was in (what I read as) "North Philadelphia." For a "block party."

I'm no Eddie Rendell, but as someone born in the city and raised 30 minutes away, I do have a sketchy familiarity with Philly's basic layout--and there was no doubt in my mind that "North Philadelphia" was either a typo or a bold (if futile) political maneuver. That's because the area is almost unanimously black--and in previous primaries, Barack Obama has trounced Clinton among African-Americans by margins of 70 or 80 percent.

If there's one city in Pennsylvania that he's guaranteed to win, the 43-percent-black Philadelphia is it, and North Philadelphia will be a big reason why. It's not Clinton Country. So typing the address--7373 Frankford Ave.--into my GPS, I simply assumed that Clinton was spending the first day of her pre-primary tour reaching out to unfriendly audiences before moving west over the weekend to woo her older, whiter, working-class constituencies. Hence "Glutton for Punishment." As a Philadelphian friend put it to me on the phone, "A block party in North Philadelphia? Fine. With Hillary Clinton? Um, no."

It was clear from the moment I arrived that his skepticism was warranted. For starters, Clinton was speaking from a stage wedged between the chrome-tastic Mayfair Diner and a place called "McNoodle's Irish Pub"--a forehead-slapping illustration of the fact that, far from North Philly, I had actually landed in Mayfair, a neighborhood in the Northeast that happens to be near-exclusively (you guessed it!) Irish. Then there was the crowd. Of the thousands thronging the 7300 block of Frankford St., I only spotted one who was, you know, black. It seems Hillary had come to Clinton Country after all. Her strength in Pennsylvania is largely predicted on the support of voters just like last night's, who were waving signs that read "Lettercarriers for Hillary" or American Federation of Teachers or AFSCME or "We've Got Your Back"--the brawny, blue-collar "white ethnics," whether of Irish, German, Polish or Italian descent, who form the Catholic backbone of the state, from Philly to Pittsburgh to Erie in the northwest. And Clinton's Pennsylvania stump speech (which she debuted at Temple last month) was perfectly calibrated for the crowd. Shouting hoarsely over near-constant cheering, she spoke of her grandfather, who labored in Scranton's lace mines from the ages of 11 to 65; her father, who played football at Penn State; the power of unions; nostalgia for the 1990s ("When I hear [Obama] criticizing the '90s, I keep wondering what part he didn't like--the peace or the prosperity--because I liked both"); and even recent detours on I-95 ("Wouldn't it be better if we put hardworking Americans back to work building roads and bridges?"). "Think of this election as a really long job interview," Clinton said. "Who are you going to hire for the hardest job in the world? After all, you're the boss." She'll spend the next four days making the same working-class case to the same working-class voters.

So far, it's working (pun intended). As you've probably heard, "Archie Bunker" voters--white, blue-collar types straight out of "All in the Family"--powered Clinton to victory in Ohio and seem poised to put her over the top in Pennsylvania. At first, some pundits doubted that the lunch-pail Dems would warm to a woman millionaire; Bunker, you'll recall, was something of a misogynist. But last night it was clear that any initial hesitation is ancient history. After her speech, as Clinton autographed and posed her way around the circular barricades surrounding the stage, 64-year-old Ernie Spain--something of a Carroll O'Connor lookalike, actually, with the same shag-era sideburns, same halo of wispy white hair, and same overgrown baby-face--struggled up onto a flimsy folding chair and steadied himself. As much as Spain shifted, stretched and straddled--he almost fell at one point--he could barely see Clinton through the tangle of hands and heads. "Hey, Hillary!" he shouted, waving his cell-phone camera. "Over here!" No response. "Would you people put those signs down for a second so a guy could get a picture!" Still nothing. Intrigued by the sight of a neighborhood guy making like a 'tween at the High School Musical premiere with his Motorola, I asked Spain, a nurse at Einstein Hospital with two kids in college, if he'd always supported Hillary. His answer was revealing. "In the beginning I gave them both an equal look," he said. "But Obama is always talking about hope, and Hillary has the details. Where are his details, you know?" I asked for an example. "Well, take the retirement age," he replied. "I'm lucky. I can retire in two years, three years. But they're talking about raising it to 70. Now, you don't have to tell me about the obesity epidemic. We're lifting 250 pound men onto stretchers every day. But how many 70-year-olds you think can do that? You tell me. For the guys like me doing the heavy lifting and digging the ditches, this stuff matters. And I like what Hillary has to say."

Spain was referring, of course, to the Democratic debate over Social Security; back in Iowa, Clinton ruled out raising the retirement age, while Obama initially left "every option on the table." But what Spain didn't realize is that Obama quickly nixed an age hike as well--meaning that on this issue, as on so many others, his and Clinton's stances are identical. Which only goes to show you: for Spain and Co., as for most other American, differences in "the details" aren't really determinative. After all, Obama is pretty darn detailed. As I've written before, "the 2008 Democratic race is by far the heaviest on policy of any nominating contest in recent memory. It's just that voters who aren't paying close attention--and that's most of us--can't 'hear' [Obama's] specifics over all his talk about airier concepts like hope, unity and change. We allot a tiny corner of our brains to each presidential candidate, and Obama has filled that space with rhetoric." After all this time, that's still why voters like Spain keeping her Clinton's candidacy alive. By emphasizing the details--along with experience, hard work and solutions--she signals that they're more important to her than "the process." And for the guys doing the heavy lifting, that makes all the sense in the world.

Walking back to my car, I checked the schedule again. "Northeast Philadelphia," it read. Turns out it was me who was off, not Clinton. She was right on target.


Union mercenaries patrol the political turf

Frank Pratka leaves his office a few times a week to join the commuting throng rolling north on Interstate 83. He lives in Baltimore but has been spending much of his spare time inside a York, Pa., storefront, placing telephone calls for Hillary Clinton.

Lynda Clarke of Towson has traveled to a New York training session for Barack Obama volunteers and bunked in a South Carolina hotel for eight days while toiling for the Illinois senator. Last weekend, she was part of a caravan that traveled from a Dulaney Valley Road coffee shop to this small college town, where she and her newest friends knocked on doors and dropped off brochures.

Clarke and Pratka represent the many Marylanders - from political neophytes to top elected officials - who remain deeply involved in the presidential campaign even though it plowed through the state more than two months ago.

Nearly 1.2 million voters cast ballots in Maryland's presidential primary Feb. 12. Since then, most residents have been content to watch the contest unfold from a distance.

But others, the most passionate of partisans, trekked through snows in Iowa and New Hampshire in January, and descended on struggling Ohio communities in March. And they're still going. With Pennsylvania the focus of the Democratic campaigns for more than five weeks, and the primary vote set for Tuesday, activists are fighting for their favored candidate much closer to home.

"I am nervous about what I am going to do when this is done," said Clarke, who works in public television. "We've been together for a year. After the election, what are we going to do?"

Politics has long been a favorite sport for Baltimoreans and suburban Washington residents. Packed with union members, government workers, consultants and lawyers, the state has been a supply of campaign cash for presidential campaigns, and, this year, of campaign labor as well.

The Mason-Dixon line separating the Old Line and Keystone states is an easy ride for most Marylanders, who are being encouraged to keep up their efforts. Similar calls are going out in New Jersey, which borders Pennsylvania to the east, and in Ohio to the west.

Clinton's most prominent Maryland backers, Gov. Martin O'Malley, Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, urged volunteers via e-mail this week to mobilize for 11th-hour get-out-the-vote drives in the central Pennsylvania cities of Harrisburg, Lancaster and York - where Pratka regularly heads.

"People come from all over," said the 59-year-old labor relations manager. "People are all very much single-focused, working to get Hillary elected."

The Obama campaign is organizing buses from Baltimore and Montgomery County to take 75 high school students to the Philadelphia suburbs this weekend, where they'll sleep in the Montgomery County, Pa., campaign office. The trip is "the perfect opportunity" to combat "the image of youth apathy," said Adam Scholl, who runs Obama's national high school campaign.

Former NAACP chief Kweisi Mfume, who also served as a state representative, has campaigned for Obama in Pittsburgh; former Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend has sent a letter to Catholic Pennsylvanians, urging them to back Clinton; and O'Malley will appear at an Irish-American rally for Clinton in Philadelphia tonight.

Brown has appeared as a designated surrogate of the Clinton campaign in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Texas and Georgia. Last weekend found him closer to home, in Philadelphia, addressing a group of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders; the city branch of the National Congress of Black Women; and congregants at a Baptist church.

Brown acknowledges that he is putting in more work than anticipated as the campaign slogs ahead. The appearances mean time away from his wife and two children - with little time to relax since the end of the annual General Assembly session.

"I made a commitment to Senator Clinton in September. I didn't expect the primary to be going on in mid-April," he said. "Hillary's the coach; she's the captain of the team. We're on the field, and I'm going to keep running my plays, and adding to the effort until this thing is won and lost."

Conversations with voters have changed as the campaign progresses, Brown said. "Earlier on, the primary seemed to be more about the issues; 99 percent of the conversation was Iraq, and health care and other issues," he said. "Now there's so much more inside-baseball going on," with voters parsing Clinton's words on Bosnia or Obama's on voter bitterness that leads them to "cling to" religion and guns.

Rushern L. Baker III, a two-time candidate for Prince George's County executive, organized a trip for 10 of his supporters to campaign for Obama this month. Splitting automobile and hotel expenses, the group arrived in Pittsburgh with a sharp competitive edge.

"We knocked on more houses than any other group," Baker said. "It was one of the hilliest places I have ever door-knocked."

Most of the team had traveled to New Hampshire in January, Baker said. This time, the effort was smoother, he said, with supporters better prepared on talking points, and in high spirits because of the convenience of the travel.

"That's how we sold it: it's a nice drive through the countryside," Baker said, with an early Saturday departure and a "nice dinner" that night. After enduring the New Hampshire winter and the Maryland primary, "people were excited to be able to do something else" for the Obama campaign, he said. They're gearing up now for a North Carolina visit.

Baker promoted the trip through a state-by-state Web site established by the Obama campaign, also used by Clarke, the public television employee from Towson - part of a group that calls itself Baltimore for Barack.

"It is all about giving our time and not dollars," said Nancy Touchette, a Baltimore for Barack member and National Institutes of Health administrator who was knocking on doors in Carlisle with Sarah Brandon, who left her job as a Baltimore attorney to devote more time to the Obama campaign. "It is the power of the grass roots'."

Susan Ness of Bethesda, a top fundraiser for Hillary Clinton and a former Bill Clinton appointee to the Federal Communications Commission, has been to Harrisburg twice, and plans to spend Monday and Tuesday in Pennsylvania.

If the opportunity arises, Ness said she is happy to share personal thoughts about Hillary Clinton, a friend since the early 1980s, as she goes door to door.

"I love canvassing. You get to speak with people. You see what's going on. You do spend enough time to see what they think of the election," she said. "It is a microcosm - but I find it very helpful."

Many Pennsylvanians "are starting to get tired of getting phone calls, and their airwaves are saturated with ads," Ness acknowledged.

But state residents - used to voting late in the primary calendar when in most election years nominees have been decided - "are generally excited that their vote matters," she said. And that energy has seeped across the border.


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