States of the unions: the labor vote in Iowa and nationwide
For now it's blue-collar for Gephardt, white-collar for Dean - but come November, they say, they'll unite to collar Bush.
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AFSCME, with 30,000 members in Iowa, launched its "Big Green Caucus Machine" tour on Tuesday. And the Alliance for Economic Justice, which represents 18 unions (more than 90,000 Iowans) and pushes the issues of jobs, trade, and healthcare, has mobilized hundreds to knock on union members' doors and visit worksites for Gephardt. Like Clayton, they feel a personal stake in their efforts.Skip to next paragraph
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"Our people are so energized," says Brett Voorhies, the AEJ Iowa state coordinator, as he watches volunteers pick up marching orders - whom to canvass, whom to call - at a Sheraton hotel conference room. "You see steelworkers wearing buttons for teamsters and laborers. They come back every night with great stories. And as soon as we're done here, we're picking up and going to the next state." His army includes people like Tina Anderson, a UPS driver from Yorba Linda, Calif., who's using her vacation time to campaign.
"We really need to get people to go support Dick Gephardt, the only candidate for working families," she tells one retired steelworker who answers his door in a modest Des Moines neighborhood. The man concedes he wasn't planning on caucusing, but by the end of the visit, Anderson and Patty Davis, a fellow teamster from California, have convinced him to go - and to take along his 18-year-old son. "We'll make a follow-up call this weekend," says Anderson, getting back into the car.
Not every visit is so successful: A retired auto worker disappoints the women by saying she'll be caucusing for Dean. But for most of them, there's only Gephardt.
If the Ames AFSCME members lack Anderson's zeal, many of them are still solidly behind Dean and passionate about defeating Bush. "We've got pretty sophisticated members here," explains Steve Kreisberg, AFSCME's director of collective bargaining at the Ames meeting. "They're attracted to Dean's feistiness."
They have a long relationship with Gephardt, he concedes, but "they don't see his campaign going anywhere, even if he does win Iowa."
Judy Lowe, the outreach coordinator for AFSCME's Take Back America campaign, cares so much about defeating Bush that she quit her job in Iowa's state capital to work full time for AFSCME. The Dean endorsement initially surprised her, she says, but now she's fully behind him: "His grass-roots campaign mirrors organizing and unions."
AFSCME's endorsement was based largely on internal polls of members. Most of the candidates, notes political director Larry Scanlon, are pretty strong on labor. "The issue for us became electability." Mr. Scanlon understands how important trade is to other unions - for many, it's the issue that distinguishes Gephardt - but says his members looked at the candidates more broadly.
"Yes, NAFTA's a big issue," Scanlon says. "But there's also healthcare, and social security, and education. We have to look at those, and also at the vitality and viability of the candidate."
Still, despite the current division, the unions emphasize that solidarity remains their broader theme. "Does it sadden me" that AFSCME and SEIU endorsed Dean? "Yes," says John Campbell, a Firestone worker whom other union members call "the man" when it comes to local organizing. "I've worked side by side with a lot of these people. But when all is said and done, workers still die in the factories, we still have workers' comp issues, we still have OSHA issues. There is one resounding theme amongst all of us: Bush must go."