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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Unions lean toward Obama as DNC approaches

Supporters cheer for President Barack Obama after his

Supporters cheer for President Barack Obama after his speech during a campaign stop on the campus of the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. (Sept. 2, 2012) Photo Credit: AP

One of the Democratic get-togethers planned in Charlotte, N.C., for convention week is called "New York State Celebrates Labor." It takes place Monday night at "Strike City" -- which is not a union hall with a cute name but a bowling alley on East Trade Street, near the center of the action.

Many organized-labor leaders deny they have any choice but to back President Barack Obama for re-election. They say so in response to last week's Republican convention in Tampa, Fla., where televised speakers looked to convince wage earners that only GOP policies will improve the economy.

The convention should bring "a reaffirmation of the principles that the Democratic Party and labor agree upon," said one state party delegate, John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor. "We'll concentrate on repudiating the [Republican] falsehoods of the past week."

Durso echoed criticism of GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan's linking Obama's 2008 campaign speech at a Wisconsin auto plant promising change to the fact that the place remains locked up. The closure was commenced during George W. Bush's presidency.

Durso, affiliated with Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union Local 338, added: "While there might be with labor some hopes for more action . . . some choices we would have made differently as priorities . . . labor is solidly behind President Obama. We realize that to protect the rights of working men and women, there's no way we can support Mitt Romney for president."

"There is no other option," said Teamsters Local 237 president Greg Floyd, also a delegate. It is "sad" for working people to be "taken for granted," he said, and "there's no alternative because Republicans made clear they do not like labor." Floyd objected to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie's slam on teachers' unions in his GOP convention speech.

Back in June, State Civil Service Employees Association president Danny Donohue said, "I think the president has done a number of things that none of us really like. We would have liked him to stand stronger and harder on issues. But that doesn't mean he's a candidate we should go against. If anything we have to remind ourselves who the enemy is, who's the alternative."

Both convention sites, by the way, have their Labor Day ironies. The Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the GOP convened last week, was largely built with public financing. North Carolina, meanwhile, is one of 22 "right-to-work" states barring contracts that require joining unions as a condition of employment.


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