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Trouble in Paradise: Unions Opt to Skip Democratic National Convention

Convention season is nigh, but the Democrats’ gather won’t quite be the Greek-columned, overflowing-football-stadium fete they had in Denver last time around. No, Charlotte is looking to be much more subdued: a shorter party with fewer guests, in large measure due to a union hissy fit.


Indeed, the Dems have cut their party down from four days to three, and now, their BFF from 2008 has decided not to come. Rather than join in the fun with Obama and company, unions have instead thrown money at their own party in Philadelphia, on August 11. Contributions and even physical presence in North Carolina will be minimal – and although they insist it has nothing to do with the union-unfriendly atmosphere in Charlotte, or dissatisfaction with Obama, they are, regardless, leaving the Democrats hurting.

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

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.

“We saw Denver as a significant opportunity at a very historic time to raise the visibility of the work of LIUNA and all men and women who build this country,” LIUNA spokesman Richard Greer wrote in an e-mail. “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.”

The list goes on: 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.


The AFL-CIO won’t be sponsoring any events, either. All told, the Democrats won’t be seeing nearly as much of the $8 million the unions kicked in for the convention last time, and NJ also reports that the DNC has raised just under $10 million of its total $36 million goal.

The unions were careful to note that they’re of course still dedicated to reelecting President Obama; however, they feel that both parties have neglected the middle class. The rally in Philadelphia will showcase “a second bill of rights” for the working class, and they’ll solicit signatures from politicians on the right and left.

However, this does reveal an interesting gap: Obama loves to talk about all the work he’s doing for the middle class, but the unions don’t see it, and as a result, won’t donate at the national level. Despite their professed commitment to getting Obama reelected, they’re withholding valuable funds and manpower, as well as the symbolic projection of a united front. Combine this with the reports yesterday that the NAACP felt somewhat snubbed by Obama’s absence, and you have a Democratic party that is seriously jeopardizing the participation of its go-to get-out-the-vote constituencies.


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