Unions shifting money, resources away from Democratic convention

FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2011, file photo AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka talks to President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington after Obama urged Congress to pass a federal highway bill. Labor remains a core Democratic constituency and union leaders will stand with Obama in Detroit this Labor Day, where he will address thousands of rank-and-file members during the city's annual parade. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Evan Vucci
FILE - In this Aug. 31, 2011, file photo AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka talks to President Barack Obama in the Rose Garden of the White House
AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

(CBS News) Adding to the Democratic Party's monetary troubles surrounding their convention in Charlotte, N.C., in September, AFL-CIO Richard Trumka said he is not going to help fill the gap.

"We do not intend to put any money in the convention," he said on Thursday, adding that union members will not have a significant presence and "will not be doing extravagant events."

Unions are looking the other way as the Democratic Party chose North Carolina, a right-to-work state, which has more stringent laws making it difficult for workers to organize, to hold the biggest political party of the election cycle, even though the Democratic Party is millions of dollars away from meeting its convention expenses. 

We are "disappointed, absolutely," Edwin Hill, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), said during a news conference Thursday. "We're not happy with the process and there was no discussion" with the unions about choosing North Carolina.

(Watch a CBS News report on Obama's re-election in the video to the left.)

Labor unions are a major backer of Democrats. During the 2008 convention in Denver, unions gave more than $5 million dollars, with the largest backers being the two teachers' unions, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Laborers' International Union, all giving at least $1 million. The SEIU donated $750,000 and the AFL-CIO $100,000, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Those donations don't include lobbying and political contributions either.

Instead, the AFL-CIO, the IBEW and coalition members are spending its resources on its own organizing efforts. At a rally in Philadelphia on August 11, where they expect up to 30,000 attendees, they will launch a new campaign and strategy. Central to the efforts is a new platform called the Second Bill of Rights. The five-point plan, which calls for voting rights, the right for health care, and the right for workers to organize, is the basis of a new campaign expected to last through Election Day to determine which politicians are on labor's side. 

"This is a declaration of if you stand with working people or you don't," Trumka said. He added that it will show union leaders that those who don't sign the pledge "will give us an opportunity to say he/she did, he/she didn't."

For those that sign it, the union's resources will be devoted to help them get elected. "You will see an effort on the ground that is bigger and broader than the past," Trumka said.

Despite avoiding a major presence in Charlotte, union leaders are arming convention delegates with the Second Bill of Rights to push Democrats to add it to the official party platform.

Melanie Roussell, national press secretary for the DNC, had no comment on if the Democratic Party planned to back labor's platform, but wrote in a statement that "Democrats are on the side of workers and are committed to strengthening the economy from the middle class out."

"We are pleased with the broad support we have from organized labor to help make this year's convention the most open and accessible convention in history," she added. 

"I can't imagine the Democratic Party not embracing all five planks, but we'll see," Trumka said. He added he'd "love to see the Republican Party" back them, too.

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