After a late-night last night of the official welcoming reception at the Democratic State Conference, followed by a Hudson County Dems-sponsored shindig, followed by Atlantic City bar-hopping and after-parties, this morning was the convention’s official Welcome Breakfast. And it turned into something of an ad hoc solidarity rally, because the first buzz topic that needed to be addressed was why and how the Democrats moved a conference scheduled for weeks at the Tropicana Casino, to Bally’s. You already heard about some of this. But NJDSC Chair John Wisniewski gave an account of the tense week of not knowing and hoping for a resolution, then getting the word that wasn’t going to happen in time. And nobody here would cross a picket line if there was one, or much want to reward Tropicana’s owner with conference business if they were playing hardball with workers who already gave concessions. Tropicana’s owner is Carl Icahn, the real-life inspiration for Wall Street‘s “Greed is Good” Gordon Gekko.
AFL-CIO NJ President Charlie Wowkanech took the stage to talk about the labor dispute at the Trop, and the flurry of calls between labor and Wisniewski and talks were disintegrating.
There’s some irony that this breakfast was so union-focused. Steve Sweeney is the event’s first-listed sponsor but Sweeney – who carries the title of General Organizer, International Association of Ironworkers – wasn’t here. I don’t know why or have any theories why. Sweeney is of course at the top of a short list of Democrats many union members resent. The subject of unflattering protest signs at the huge Trenton rally of union firefighters and cops in March. The recipient of a large inflatable rat outside his office 2 years ago, a pointed gesture of disrespect. But that isn’t much of a discussion here; these conferences take on a rah-rah attitude of Democratic unity, win in November, and let’s argue the details later.
Either way, NJDSC’s decision, chaotic as it is to move hundreds of people to a conference across town, was the right one. AFL-CIO’s Charlie Wowkanech on labor’s tense week, and the NJDSC’s: