Democrats Still Waiting for AFL-CIO Cash for Convention

The AFL-CIO has not decided if it will help fund the Democratic National Convention in right-to-work North Carolina, though the group still plans to work to elect the party’s candidates in November.

“We have not as of yet” decided to contribute, Richard Trumka, head of the labor federation, said yesterday at a press conference in Washington. “We will be doing the things we do; we will be building structure to try to get the president elected. We unequivocally support him and his re-election efforts.”

The AFL-CIO endorsed President Barack Obama’s re-election in March and will have members at the convention as delegates. The federation is not, however, planning to host big events such as the reception it held at Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies, during the 2008 Democratic convention in Denver.

This year’s convention is expected to culminate in Obama’s re-nomination at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte on Sept. 6. Last month, two people familiar with the matter who requested anonymity told Bloomberg News the host committee was grappling with a fundraising deficit of about $27 million. Four years ago, unions contributed more than $8 million to the Democratic convention in Denver, according to financial disclosure reports.

Some unions, including the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department, said last year that they would not participate in the Charlotte convention because the party chose to hold its convention in a state that lacks unionized hotels for candidates and delegates. As a right-to-work state, North Carolina bars agreements that make union membership and payment of dues a job requirement.

Mobilize Voters

“I will not be there,” Edwin Hill, the president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said at yesterday’s press conference. “We do not intend to put any money into the convention.”

Trumka said yesterday that the reduced convention activity had “nothing to do” with the the North Carolina location. Rather, he said, the union wanted to use its resources to mobilize and educate voters across the U.S., with Obama’s re-election a top priority.

The convention, with a self-imposed ban on corporate donations, will show Obama is supporting the middle class and workers, while his Republican opponents are controlled by corporate interests, Melanie Roussell, the national press secretary of the Democratic National Committee said in an e-mail.

Philadelphia Rally

“We are pleased with the broad support we have from organized labor to help make this year’s convention the most open and accessible convention in history,” Roussell said.

The AFL-CIO is planning a one-day rally in Philadelphia in August, a month before the convention, to highlight the need for higher wages and improved educational opportunities. The rally was suggested by labor leaders after some complained about the North Carolina convention site.

“It’s to call attention to the fact that we need good union jobs in this country,” Hill said in a March interview. “Why would we want to go there and spend our money in a place that doesn’t even want us?”

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