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The Union Label

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With Labor Day come and gone, union endorsements are piling up. So who's zoomin' who?

Hillary Clinton collected two big endorsements last week, from the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers and the United Transportation Union. Senator Christopher Dodd got the approval of the International Association of Firefighters. Then, on Labor Day, the United Mineworkers of America and United Steelworkers spoke, and they said: Edwards.

Of the Democratic candidates, John Edwards appeared to go farthest yesterday in his support for the labor agenda. (He already had the backing of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.) "To the extent that we can reform our labor laws -- make it easier to organize, give more power to unions to negotiate fairly," he said to a town hall meeting Chariton, Iowa, "I think it's a huge part of building the middle class." (Clinton also spoke out in favor of easier organizing rules, and talked of her days walking picket lines, according to the Quad City Times, but she broadened her theme to encompass more general middle class insecurities.) But of course, all the Democrats are courting union voters, though occasionally Obama rattles their nerves with stances like supporting merit pay for teachers.

Democrats aren't the only ones to win union endorsements, no matter what you might think. Besides lining up behind Clinton, the IAM gave the nod to, of all people, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, apparently for just showing up. "Mike Huckabee was the only Republican candidate with the guts to meet with our members and the only one willing to figure out where and how we might work together," said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. "He is entitled to serious consideration from our members voting in the upcoming Republican primaries."

It does seem that Republicans more and more are cutting themselves off from voting segments here and there -- they don't want the gay vote, they don't want the labor vote -- but at least Huckabee has figured out that it's one thing to refuse to kowtow to the union agenda, yet quite another to refuse even a conversation with working people as working people. Huckabee, too, has agreed to "Walk a Day In My Shoes," where candidates follow Service Employees International Union members in their jobs as nurses, health care aides, and janitors. Five Democrats have participated, but the Arkansan is alone among the Republicans. Who's stoking the class war now?

So what do Republicans do on Labor Day? They gather little press coverage, for one thing. In Iowa, John McCain spoke about the sacrifices veterans are making -- whoops, wrong holiday! -- and Mitt Romney went through several costume changes in New Hampshire. Nary a peep was heard from Rudy Giuliani, Tom Tancredo, Duncan Hunter, or the others.

Last updated: Sep 4, 2007




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