Union leader Trumka firmly behind Obama despite right-to-work convention location
September 6, 2012 2:15 PM
Charles Dharapak/Associated Press
Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO, addresses the Democratic National Convention on Wednesday in Charlotte, N.C.
By Tracie Mauriello Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Unions largely bowed out of the Democratic National Convention because party officials chose to hold it in a right-to-work state, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka showed Wednesday night that labor is still firmly behind President Obama.
"Our country needs unity. Our country needs leadership. Our country needs Barack Obama," he told a cheering crowd at the Time Warner Cable Center.
He didn't waste the opportunity to sling an arrow the convention host's right-to-work policy. Workers in North Carolina deserve the right to organize and to bargain collectively, he said.
He spent most of his time at the podium, though, attacking Mitt Romney and Republican economic policy.
"Mitt Romney told us that he and his friends built American without any help from the rest of us. Well, let me tell you something: Mr. Romney doesn't know a thing about hard work or responsibility," Mr. Trumka said. "You see, we're the ones who built America. We're the ones who build it every single day because it is our work that connects us."
Trumka said the decision not to support the convention financially was a practical one made necessary by a 2010 court decision that removed restrictions on corporate campaign contributions.
"We kept our money because we need to build structure with it. We're going to be outspent 30-, 40- or 50-to-1," Mr. Trumka said in an interview after his speech. "Our thinking is that we need to use our resources to build structure."
Like other speakers in Charlotte this week, he characterized Republican economic policy as one that benefits the wealthy at the expense of the working class.
"Shared prosperity is the only kind that lasts, and we will have that under Barack Obama," he said. "We know that the wealthiest and most powerful among us -- those who have benefitted most in recent years -- must do their part to help build America."
In a letter last month, Mr. Trumka -- who also is a convention delegate -- told local union leaders that the AFL-CIO wouldn't be buying skyboxes or hosting events as it usually does at Democratic conventions.
Mr. Trumka is a third generation coal miner from Nemacolin, Pa. and a former attorney for United Mine Workers of America. He has been president of the AFL-CIO since 2009.