Labor unions' cash going to shadow convention, not Charlotte

When the Democratic Party picked my home state of North Carolina for its convention this year, they were still safely ensconced in the euphoric glow of Barack Obama’s slim victory there in ’08. Some murmured about the state’s right-to-work status and its lowest-in-the-nation union participation (2.9 percent!). But they weren’t hurdles to lusty labor participation, or so they thought.

Fast forward to 2012, and major labor unions are taking their ball and heading to labor-friendly Philadelphia, not Charlotte. More than a dozen unions, as reported by the Charlotte Observer, are planning a rally on Aug. 11, which they claim is “not meant to challenge or distract.”

But the rally is certainly a distraction for union money the Charlotte convention needs. The convention committee has raised a paltry $10 million of its $36 million goal, and already shortened the Obama coronation to a three-day affair, canceling an event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway (which they were desperately hoping would help with this problem).


Traditionally a generous supporter of Democratic conventions, IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers) contributed $1 million to fund the festivities in Denver in 2008. This year, it will instead be writing a seven-figure check for a “Workers Stand for America” rally in Philadelphia on Aug. 11.

The rally, financed in part by money from IBEW and other unions that would otherwise be going toward the Sept. 3 convention in Charlotte, will showcase a “second bill of rights” intended to refocus attention on middle-class concerns—jobs, living wages, energy, and educational opportunity. The entire initiative will be announced at a Thursday afternoon press conference with IBEW President Ed Hill and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.

The list goes on, from the National Journal:

The Laborers’ International Union of North America, by contrast, kicked in $1.5 million–making it the second-largest contributor to the Denver convention. This year, the organization is significantly pulling back…

The Communications Workers of America will only be offsetting the costs of members attending the convention, not contributing directly as it did by giving $52,000 in 2008. Unite Here told The Wall Street Journal in May that it will be keeping its $100,000 this time around. A dozen other labor organizations are boycotting the convention altogether, although many others are still planning to send delegates.

Richard Trumka has told media outlets the AFL-CIO won’t be sponsoring events in Charlotte.

The whole thing is worth a read, if only for the unions’ increasingly euphemistic explanations of their absence from Charlotte: “This cycle, we’re focusing our resources on informing, organizing, and mobilizing our members and their families to reelect President Obama and progressive candidates at the state and federal level.”

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Many unions will still send representation to Charlotte (their non-union hotel accommodations await!), and the movement is of course committed to Obama’s reelection, but margins matter in elections. A labor movement that’s gone from “fired up” to “meh” thanks to the president’s attendance in Charlotte and his absence from Madison means the specter of marginally fewer phone calls, fewer door knocks, fewer ads. Four years ago, would you have expected to see this headline about labor unions the summer of Obama’s reelection fight? “Fed up with both parties, unions hold own party in Philadelphia”

And, North Carolina Democrats continue to oblige by making North Carolina as inhospitable as possible in the run-up to the convention, what with their least popular governor in the nation, sexual harassment scandals, slapstick legislative mishaps, old-fashioned corruption, and the recent reminder that they’re the ones who brought you John Edwards.

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Jazz Shaw 8:31 AM on December 04, 2022