In Late Boost, Unions Chipped In More for Convention

Washington Wire

September 6, 2012, 1:35 PM

By Alicia Mundy,Associated Press

Delegates hold up signs during union leaders’ speeches at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Labor unions gave new donations to the Democratic Party for its national convention just as delegates were convening for the event, people with knowledge of the matter say.

The contributions marked something of a change for organized labor, which had scaled back its donations compared to prior years. That was due in part to the Democrats’ decision to hold the event in North Carolina, whose right-work-laws are bitterly opposed by unions.

The lack of enthusiasm among unions, combined with the decision by Democrats to bar corporate money from the main convention fund, had created challenges for the party in raising money for the three-day event.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and several of the building trades unions gave last-minute donations for the convention, according to people with knowledge of the matter. AFSCME declined comment. Several building trade groups did not return calls.

The Democratic National Committee would not reveal the size of the contributions. Its spokeswoman, Melanie Roussell, said, “I can confirm that we have received monetary contributions from a good number of national labor unions.”

Organized labor gave about $8 million for the Democrats’ 2008 convention.

Some of the new donations had been under discussion the last few weeks. They were made final as Republicans, at their own convention last week in Tampa, included anti-union broadsides in several prime-time speeches and included a national policy to curb union power in their platform, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. Those developments created a sense of urgency for the unions to strengthen their alliance with the Democratic National Committee, according to party and union people familiar with the matter.

“Obviously, we wouldn’t have picked North Carolina or any state with ‘right-to-work-for-less’ and anti-labor laws to host the Democratic convention,” said Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME.  “But last week’s Republican convention was a wake-up call to labor.”

In a separate development, the Teamsters union, which did not contribute to the convention, is pushing forward with negotiations on a coordinated voter drive with the AFL-CIO as the unions lays plans for the November election.

“I’ve never seen a party be this outspoken at a convention against workers and working families,” James Hoffa, president of the Teamsters, said of the GOP.

Organized labor is a major donor to Democratic candidates and causes. Republicans say the advent of GOP-leaning super PACs can help their party balance the power of unions in federal and state elections.

Author: AFGE Local 704

Representing over 900 bargaining unit employees working at the U.S. EPA Region 5 Offices in Chicago, Ann Arbor, MI and Westlake, OH.

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