Union officials who gathered in western Massachusetts Friday for a Labor Day observance said they were energized by President Obama’s Thursday night speech at the Democratic National Convention. The task for the labor leaders now is to convince union households not to desert the Democratic party as the economy continues to struggle. WAMC”S Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.
Union officials warn starkly that a Republican victory in November will lead to what they called the “Wisconsinization” of America. Michael Florio, Executive Director of the Western Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health said the stakes for organized labor in this election have never been higher.
Florio said the threat Republican control of the White House and the Congress would pose to union jobs is a message that has to spread beyond Massachusetts, which is not a battleground in the race for President.
Timothy Collins the president of the Springfield Education Association, the teachers union, saw first hand what happened after Springfield was put in the hands of a financial control board, appointed by Governor Mitt Romney. The board unilaterally froze pay and reduced benefits.
There was a lot of focus by speakers at this year’s annual breakfast on the U.S Senate race in Massachusetts between incumbent Republican Scott Brown and his Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren. Brown won a majority of union households when he captured the seat in a special election.
Richard Brown, the president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO said those union households need to get beyond the barncoat and pickup truck that symbolize Senator Brown’s everyman appeal and look at the votes he’s cast against labors’ interests.
Congressman John Olver warned it would be little solace if Massachusetts helped re-elect President Obama, but cost the Democratic Party control of the Senate. Congressman Jim McGovern said people need to think twice before voting for a split ticket.
Brown is counting on siphoning off enough votes of independents to cut any coattail effect President Obama might have in the Massachusetts Senate Race.
Brown who bills himself as a bi-partisan problem solver, has highlighted endorsements he’s received from several current and former Democratic office holders. Brown, on Thursday, was endorsed by former Democratic Springfield Mayor Charlie Ryan.
Mention of Ryan’s endorsement of Brown at Friday’s labor breakfast drew loud boos from the crowd of 250 people.