Unions Playing Role In Presidential Campaign
February 16, 2000
As Al Gore and Bill Bradley battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, both have walked Teamsters Overnite picket lines. While the AFL-CIO has endorsed Gore, the Teamsters union has yet to make an endorsement. But Bradley got an unofficial boost in Atlantic City, NJ, Tuesday.
Bradley addressed about 400 union leaders attending the 13-state Eastern regional meeting of the Teamsters union. He received a standing ovation. As he got ready to leave, Teamsters Vice President Thomas O'Donnell entertained a motion to endorse the former New Jersey senator. It passed by acclamation.
Bradley called for a ban on companies replacing striking workers. He told the conference about his boyhood days in Crystal, City, MO, where his uncle worked in a lead factory that had no union, while neighbors who worked in a unionized glass factory had good pay and benefits. He also noted that he is the only presidential candidate with a union pension, having been shop steward on the New York Knicks for nine of his 10 years in professional basketball.
While Bradley spokesman Eric Hauser called the action "significant," Teamsters spokesman Chip Roth said the "spontaneous expression of support" carried no official weight. He did say the group's sentiments would be expressed to national headquarters, but that the union was still studying the candidates.
Exit polls indicate that Gore's strong support from organized labor has been a factor in his success in the primaries so far.
Meanwhile, the AFL-CIO said yesterday that it would spend more money than ever -- $40 million - to help get pro-labor candidates elected to the White House and to Congress. John Sweeney, the union's president, said the trade unions would focus on races in 71 swing Congressional districts and on electing Gore.
On Monday, the Transportation Trades Department of the AFL-CIO said that issues crucial to transportation workers would take center stage during this election year. During its winter meeting, the TTD Executive Committee called on the Administration and Congress to address the growing fuel crisis, endorsed the Teamster's Port Trucker Bill of Rights campaign on behalf of port owner-operators, and condemned those in Congress who want to derail a new federal ergonomics standard.