CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The stage for the Democratic National Convention is an elaborate display of lights, carpeting and video screens. It’s worthy of a Las Vegas show. In fact, unionized workers from Vegas were “imported” to build the stage, according to delegate Dick Collins, who hails from Sin City.
“Most of the trade unions are boycotting this, because it’s held in a non-union town,” Collins proudly said. It’s also the least unionized state in the U.S. -- less than 3%, especially since state law forbids government workers from organizing.
North Carolina’s right-to-work status has been a sore spot with unions. The building trades held their own political rally recently in Philadelphia. Local leaders quietly talked about not being motivated for the president and those down-ticket.
So into the discontent, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka stepped Tuesday morning, meeting with several hundred labor leaders who are also delegates. He got a raucous welcome. The organization chose a hotel close to the Time-Warner Cable Arena. It didn’t matter, since no hotels are unionized in Charlotte.
“And the labor movement may be small here, but I could tell you that it truly does punch above its own weight,” Trumka said trying to mollify any holdover anger. He urged members to keep the greater goal in sight. “We have a chance to stand with leaders who champion working families.”
Besides, he suggests, labor’s presence might spark some movement on that front in North Carolina, and maybe the south in general.Collins, a retiree from labor organizing in Buffalo who moved to Vegas, breathes a heavy sigh when asked about such speculation. “I hope he’s right. I hope he’s right.”
He’d rather be anywhere else. “Not only is it a non-union town; it’s a staunch anti-union town, which makes it even worse."
Collins concluded, “They have so many ignorant people here that they don’t understand the goodness of unions."
But Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is not just for unions. Mark Mix of the National Right to Work Committee issued a video statement marking the holiday as a pre-emptive strike on the Democrats’ convention.
“Union officials are mounting a billion-dollar campaign to reelect President Barack Obama; and elect more pro-forced-unionism allies in Congress,” Mix says into the camera.
He claimed, “The National Right to Work Committee is mobilizing its 2.6 million members to call on candidates to support greater workplace freedoms.” They do politics, too.