AFL-CIO mobilizes to get out the voter

10/28/08 Seán Kinane
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With the election only a week away, labor unions are mobilizing workers to vote for presidential nominee Barack Obama and other Democrats.

Today at a call center for Medco Co. in North Tampa, John Sweeney, president of the national AFL-CIO helped union members pass out fliers and encourage people to vote. Sweeney said he is traveling around the country assisting in the largest mobilization campaign in the history of the labor movement; more than a quarter-million workers are volunteering to get out the vote.

Sweeney said Obama has been a strong supporter of working family issues and will focus on the priorities of workers.

In contrast, Sweeney said, Republican presidential nominee John McCain is “just the opposite” when it comes to the concerns of working people.

“He would be a continuation of George Bush and he would not be advocating change. He would be supporting the wealthy and the corporations and the vultures on Wall Street. ... He has offered the privatization of Social Security as a major goal of his and he’s one of the architects of the deregulation in the financial industries.”

If it is passed by Congress, the Employee Free Choice Act would “amend the National Labor Relations Act to establish an efficient system to enable employees to form, join, or assist labor organizations.”

McCain voted against the Employee Free Choice Act and criticizes Obama for his support of it. During recent campaign speeches, McCain has claimed that if elected, Obama would “take away your right to vote by secret ballot in labor elections.”

But Sweeney disagrees with McCain’s characterization of the Act.

Robert Ray is president of the Central Labor Council. He said the main issue for working families is the economy and that labor endorses Democratic candidates who support the Employee Free Choice Act.

Eddie Duarte with the Ironworkers Local 397 in Tampa said he is "trying to come out here and make a difference for the working family."

Todd Vega is with the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters. Several union members, including Vega, cited the Employee Free Choice Act as a reason they were supporting Obama. Vega said he was passing literature to workers because “solidarity, trying to help these people, you know, try to get things going our way in these elections, very important times. We need a change; working class people have just taken a beating for a long time.”

A Medco spokesperson did not respond to WMNF’s request for an interview by airtime.

Sweeney is confident that the millions of union members who voted for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries will support Obama in the general election.

“The Hillary Clinton supporters in most cases have come back and they’re all pretty much aimed at coming back because they recognize that Hillary didn’t win and Barack Obama has been the endorsed candidate. She herself has expressed her views very clearly. I was with her in Pittsburgh at a huge rally and she left no uncertainty about where she stood and why she was supporting Barack Obama.”

Photo by Seán Kinane/WMNF


Employee Free Choice Act

One recent McCain speech referring to Obama’s support of the Employee Free Choice Act

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