Trouble in Paradise; DNC getting pusback from Big Labor

At least 12 trade unions will boycott the Democratic National Convention in part because of its location — Charlotte, North Carolina.  Apparently, North Carolina and 21 other states are on a union blacklist because they are Right to Work states.  The states are far from union-free, its just workers can’t be forced to pay to a union boss.

But in addition to locating in North Carolina, union bosses have “broad frustration” with President Obama and the Democrats in Congress.  Obama and the Democrats have given big labor everything they could but, of course, that is not enough. The Charlotte Observer has the story:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Casting North Carolina as an anti-union bastion with “regressive policies aimed at diluting the power of workers,” more than a dozen trade unions affiliated with the national AFL-CIO have told the Democratic National Committee that they will sit out the 2012 convention in Charlotte, N.C.

Coming on the heels of some liberals’ complaints that President Barack Obama is giving in to Republicans, the unions’ decision is another sign that key Democratic allies are unhappy with Obama and other party leaders as they gear up for a difficult election season.

It’s also a signal that anything relating to Charlotte — from its besieged hometown bank to its lack of unionized hotels — will face scrutiny as the city eases into the national spotlight.

Labor unions have long played an integral role in Democratic conventions. And some big ones, including the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, still plan to be active participants when the Democrats come to Charlotte in 2012.

Local and state labor leaders also are still on board. The N.C. AFL-CIO helped lobby for Charlotte to be the convention site. On Friday, a leader of the Raleigh-based labor group called the national unions’ decision understandable, but “shortsighted.”

“I think the only way we’re going to change things here is if people understand the struggles here. I’m encouraged that the Democratic Party wants to make investments here in the state,” said MaryBe McMillian, secretary-treasurer of the N.C. AFL-CIO. “This convention is going to bring much-needed work for union members and thousands of unemployed North Carolinians.” With new Democratic convention rules barring donations from corporations, federal lobbyists and PACs — including those affiliated with labor unions — the Charlotte gathering already was forecast to be less reliant than past conventions on big financial support from organized labor.

Still, the decision by the national unions — representing 2.5 million workers in the building and construction trades — reflects disappointment from labor activists who Democrats count on to get union members to the polls.

In a letter this week to Democratic Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the unions bemoaned the persistently high unemployment rate nationwide and the choice of Charlotte at a time when union members “face assault after assault” in Washington and in some state capitals.

“The Teamsters Union has not gone through our own internal decision process about the Democratic National Convention,” said spokeswoman Leigh Strope.

But the angst could spread. The International Association of Machinists, which is not part of the building trades, said it also has decided to skip the convention after participating for decades.

“This is the union that came up with the idea for Labor Day and this convention starts on Labor Day in a right-to-work state,” said IAM spokesman Rick Sloan. “We see that as an affront to working men and women across this country.” Monroe said the unions are being careful not to use the term “boycott” because they don’t want to damage Obama’s re-election prospects. He said money is also a major factor, when unions are spending millions trying to beat back efforts by Republican lawmakers to diminish union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio and other states.

“It would be disappointing to our members to see us doing business as usual, diverting resources that we know are scarce when we should be laser-like focused on getting elected officials focused on the jobs agenda,” Monroe said.