Last Updated:September 20 @ 08:20 am

Upset with DNC location, unions hold own rally

By Michael Biesecker

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Upset by the Democratic Party's decision to stage its presidential convention in a Southern state long viewed as hostile to organized labor, union leaders are holding a rally where they hope to highlight key issues near and dear to middle-class workers.

Prominent labor leaders created the "Workers Stand for America" rally after what they say was their lack of input into planning for the2012 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., which is set to begin Sept. 4. They say thousands of union workers will rally to call attention to issues affecting the middle class. The centerpiece of the event is a "Second Bill of Rights" laying out workers' rights.

Unions have long been a key ally for Democrats, and they gave $8.3 million toward the 2008 convention in Denver that helpedPresident Barack Obama win the White House. Labor officials say that longstanding friendship won't change — nor will their support for Obama. But many are refusing to contribute money to a convention in a state that bans collective bargaining for teachers and other public workers.

"This year we will not be making major monetary contributions to the convention or the host committee for events or activities around the convention," AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka wrote in a letter sent to union leaders last month. "We won't be buying skyboxes, hosting events other than the labor delegates meeting or bringing a big staff contingent to the convention."

Top Democrats view North Carolina as crucial to retaining the White House, as it was a key victory for Obama in 2008 when he became the party's first candidate to carry the state since Jimmy Carter in 1976. But the state is the least-unionized in the country, in part because of strong "right-to-work" laws that ban making union membership a condition of employment.

Beyond the rally in Philadelphia, several labor groups have said they plan to protest outside the Charlotte convention. On Monday, a group of unionized Charlotte city workers picketed city hall, as they plan to do every Monday this month.

Left-leaning union members are generally considered to be among the strongest pillars in the Democratic base, so images of them picketing the party's big soiree has Republicans salivating. But political observers warn against reading too much into what is fundamentally a lover's quarrel.

"The unions have to maintain face with their own membership after the party chose a right-to-work state to hold the convention, but in the end they aren't going to abandon the Democrats," said John Szmer, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. "The Republican Party has declared war on unions, as seen with what happened in Wisconsin following 2010."

Fundraising figures won't be released until 60 days after the convention, but Szmer predicted organizers would have to turn to corporate donors to make up for the money lost from unions.

In addition to the AFL-CIO, the half-million member Laborers' International Union of North America has not provided any money for Charlotte, said spokesman Rich Greer. LIUNA gave $1.5 million to the Denver convention.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which contributed $1 million for the convention four years ago, is also withholding support this time around. The union's president, Ed Hill, is making a point of not going to Charlotte.

Hill began organizing the Philadelphia rally after a meeting last year with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the Florida congresswoman who is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Convention. Hill was surprised by the selection of Charlotte and left the meeting dissatisfied with the party's commitment to union issues, calling it a "wake-up call."

"We were upset they didn't give any consideration," Hill recounted this week. "It just seemed like at that point the middle-class, working people were being ignored ."

Since then, Democratic organizers have tried to mend fences. Although Charlotte's convention hotels and uptown restaurants are not unionized, the stages that Obama and other Democratic leaders will speak on will be built by union labor, and union workers are also remodeling the Charlotte sports arena that will serve as the convention venue.

The host committee, Charlotte in 2012, is also holding a large Labor Day festival in uptown Charlotte to help launch the week's events. James Andrews, the AFL-CIO president in North Carolina, is on the host organization's steering committee.

Union members are serving as convention delegates, and there are some unions still providing financial support for the event. Among them is the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters, which confirmed giving a donation but declined to say how much.

"You can't help make the decisions if you're not in the room when the decisions are made," said Rick Terven, the union's executive vice president.

Wasserman Shultz and other party leaders have also reached out to Hill, Trumka and others organizing the Philadelphia event. The DNC chairwoman will speak at the labor rally this weekend and will sign the "Second Bill of Rights" that is the focus of the event. The document includes the right to a living wage, a quality education, and the rights to organize in the workplace and collectively bargain.

"We are excited to lend our support and to participate in the labor rally in Philadelphia this weekend, which will be an important organizing opportunity in a key battleground state," said DNC Executive Director Patrick Gaspard .

For his part, Hill is making clear his boycott of the Charlotte convention should in no way be inferred as a lack of support for Obama's re-election. He does hope the rally will help refocus the national debate away from whether to renew tax breaks for the wealthy.

"You don't hear anything at all about what's happening to the middle class in this country," Hill said. "It's being decimated. ... We just hope the national debate now starts to take into consideration what's needed for the working people."

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9 Comments

  1. wedeyComment by wedey
    August 10, 2012 @ 3:10 pm

    The only thing near and dear to union officials is their own over-inflated paychecks. They have long ago quit worrying about the regular workers.

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  2. effwingerComment by effwinger
    August 10, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    Great, have your own convention. You could make like a Hollyweird awards show. The union heads could come in their own limos, wearing their diamonds and gold, wave to the middle class schmucks, tell some lame jokes and announce their gayness. It would be wonderful, and the idiot dimocrat base would buy it……

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  3. thomasjeffersonComment by thomasjefferson
    August 10, 2012 @ 8:44 pm

    Now we know where the first (second?) drone strike should be.

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    • BrokerbobComment by Brokerbob
      August 11, 2012 @ 8:53 pm

      Where would that be? Charlotte, NC or AFL-CIO puke headquarters?

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  4. BillzillaComment by Billzilla
    August 10, 2012 @ 11:02 pm

    “You don’t hear anything at all about what’s happening to the middle class in this country,” Hill said. “It’s being decimated. … We just hope the national debate now starts to take into consideration what’s needed for the working people.”

    If they want to take into consideration what’s needed for the working people… then they’d urge their members to vote out Obama, and help make every state a strong right to work state. That is if they were truly concerned!

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  5. getitright112Comment by getitright112
    August 11, 2012 @ 2:51 am

    As someone who belongs to one of these unions because they took over where I work, I think it is funny that they are upset. I get so sick of the phone calls & letters telling m who to vote for & what to vote for. When I can finally get a word in edge wise, I tell them I NEVER vote Democrat & they quit calling me… for this time. Next election they will be back on the phone.

    Know what was funny? They just had to get Brown in because he would ‘save the day’. And then he ‘betrayed’ them by trying to cuts funds by 35% to the disabled. I had already lost any respect for this union when a southern Ca. bunch sent protestors to Arizona to protest their immigration laws. It has nothing to do with any unions except the ones riddled with people who cannot speak English. Unions had their use once a long time ago. Now they are run by thugs and have been since before Jimmie Hoffa.

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    • BrokerbobComment by Brokerbob
      August 11, 2012 @ 9:05 pm

      This is absolutely true as a retired union member. I remember the first time during an election year them telling me who I would vote for. I didn’t, I had and still have a conscience.

      When they don’t get their way they kick and scream like babies, Throw rocks through windows, burn things, beat up people. Their time of helping underpaid workers has long passed. Now the bosses are just for padding their own salaries and pensions at workers expense. Getting kickbacks and favors for political donations of members money to candidates the members wouldn’t support

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  6. getitright112Comment by getitright112
    August 12, 2012 @ 4:00 am

    Brokerbob, You are so right! Many years further back than I care to remember, the unions were trying to take over a plant where the employees did not want to go union. My sister-in-law was one of these employees. Many of her fellow workers as well as herself were followed home & run off the road when possible.
    They were harassed at every turn but they did not give in & vote the union in. An uncle of mine was told by my mom that he was beginning to act & look like the mafia because he was a union enforcer or one of those who went around persuading people to vote them in. She ended up convincing him to leave that job. Once at the cannery we had a big meeting on whether to strike or not. Most at our cannery did not want to strike since it was going to be during the only time we got to work. I promise you the guys that showed up to push the idea were wearing tailor made suits that had little in common with the ordinary cannery worker. Yeah, the strike went on & the hourly wage was raised but those of us who worked that plant lost our income for the year & the raise meant nothing to us. In the long run the cannery folded because of the union.

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  7. mittenmanComment by mittenman
    August 12, 2012 @ 8:53 am

    One thing that would be interesting to fact-check is the collective average of I Q ‘s comparing no unionists present , and if they attend.
    20 more points if they stay away is a reasonable guess.

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