Tag Archive: Labor

Liveblogging the NJ Dem Convention

OK, so this is not really live blogging the convention since I am back in my hotel room after attending the Labor reception.  But there’s no wireless in Bally’s convention area and I wasn’t about to lug my laptop over there and back to the hotel anyway.

Pretty much this started like any other convention, meeting up with folks I’ve seen and haven’t seen over the year and a couple months since the last one.  Glad-handing, smiling, telling dumb stories, sharing potty-training secrets (really!) and finding out about some of the campaigns out there.

Mitch Manzella was working the crowd for Carol Gay, and though I didn’t see her someone told me she was there.  Governor Jim Florio held court in a few places, telling stories that made folks laugh and since he’s out of office that means they  were funny.  Joe Cryan, our chairman, moved around everywhere very well and spread his charm throughout the crowd.  Essentially, a schmooze-fest like the first night of a convention should be.

The most notable thing that happened (besides dipping rice crispy treats in a chocolate fountain) was during the presentation part of the Labor reception.  First, all the speakers — there were five — were brief and to the point.  That’s remarkable in and of itself.

But the best part was when Charlie Wowkanech from the AFL-CIO gave a proud and happy shout-out to Senator Steve Sweeney, who is an Ironworker union leader.

Sweeney, most Blue Jersey readers should recall, is the leader of a legislative effort to take wages and benefits away from state workers.  He maintains that private sector workers are making less and have lower benefits, so he as a leader of the working man and woman wants to reduce state worker benefits.

Needless to say, the AFL-CIO was not amused and put out a press release that said, in part:

Most troublesome about Senator Sweeney and Assemblymen Green and Moriarty’s announcement yesterday is that it undermines the collective bargaining process by bypassing negotiations and simply imposing their will upon thousands of middle class public employees. We are deeply disappointed with this action and respectfully urge these Legislators to retract this proposal and instead raise these concerns at the bargaining table.

In June the AFL-CIO was “deeply disappointed” and troubled by Sweeney’s efforts, efforts which have not let up since then.  But today, in the gladhanding atmosphere of a party convention, all is forgiven.

That’s all for tonight, as I need to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for tomorrow.  Could someone call the casinos for me and see if they can bring back $5 minimum blackjack?

Connect the Dots: Sweeney, Moriarity, Green …..anyone else?

Trenton is abuzz whether Senator Steve Sweeney’s labor epiphany on state worker pensions along with fellow legis collegues, Paul Moriarity and Jerry Green is of their own doing or part of a “grassy knoll” to prepare for the Gov’s labor negotiations next year.  After all, with all those fancy charts and graphs included in their accompanying brochure, either this ’06 Mod Squad has the best staff south of I-195 or something else is in the works.  Even Michael Aaron’s Roundtable Reporters today couldn’t agree if they are truly mavericks or vocalizing the will of higher authority. Unless they fess up, it’s anyone’s guess for now.

Wells Keddie, Labor Educator and Activist, Dies at Age 80

New York governor Al Smith was often called “The Happy Warrior,” but the man I know who was best suited to that title was Wells Keddie, a labor studies professor, stalwart union member and social activist at Rutgers University. Keddie, who died recently at the age of 80, was a fighter without rancor — there was something about his temperament that allowed him to be affable and welcoming even with his opponents. Even when he was up to his eyebrows in academic infighting and negotiations with the university (he was a bulwark of the American Association of University Professors), Keddie came across as a serene man enjoying life to the hilt.

He was also a walking encyclopedia of labor history and its lessons — lessons that have become more relevant than ever, with unions everywhere on the ropes and the Republican administration in Washington apparently intent on recreating the predatory mores of the Gilded Age. I last spoke with him about a year ago, as I was starting a round of research into a Hudson County labor war of the early 1930s, and I could hear he was suffering from a condition that left him barely able to speak. That was the unkindest cut of all for a man who was one of the championship talkers.

Labor backing LoBiondo’s run

A handful of protestors showed up outside the meeting.  From the Press of Atlantic City

It was warm and comfortable in the upstairs room at Angelo’s Fairmount Tavern here Monday night.

It got even more cozy as labor leaders, politicians, casino representatives and business organizations from throughout southern New Jersey gave U.S. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-2nd, what amounted to an endorsement of his re-election bid.

Across the street, about 15 protesters bundled in coats, hats and gloves to hold off the cold tried to turn up the heat on LoBiondo: Members of Citizens for Progressive Representation, or CPR, held up signs and called out to those entering the restaurant that LoBiondo’s congressional voting record is the opposite of what his supporters inside were celebrating.

“The Bush administration has been one of the most anti-worker, anti-union administrations on record, yet LoBiondo has voted with Bush almost all of the time on labor matters,” said CPR Chairwoman Janet Fayter.

Those inside took note of the protest, but not the way CPR would have wanted: Labor officials said LoBiondo has always been there to strengthen the city’s gaming industry, fight for more jobs and stand up for the working man.

“The people who are outside, that’s where they’re going to stay,” said state AFL-CIO President Charles Wowkanech. “Outside.”

LoBiondo told supporters the protest was an example of a political climate in which people “choose to ignore reality and real facts.”

We’ve had previous diaries on whether there will be a Dem challenger, but some from labor were discouraging that.

Another reality that was clear from Monday night’s event was that organized labor, traditionally considered a supporter of Democrats, was sending a message to any Democrat considering a challenge to LoBiondo: Don’t do it.

Roy Foster, president of the Atlantic-Cape May Central Labor Council, said there “won’t be no money” from labor for any Democratic congressional candidate in the 2nd District. Democrats in the district may think they’re automatically entitled to labor’s support, but they are “guests in our house,” he said.

LoBiondo said the event sent a “very clear message” to any potential Democratic challenger.

That creates something of a bigger problem for southern New Jersey Democrats.

And surprise, surprise, LoBiondo doesn’t want to limit himself to his promised 6 terms.  What about the supposed targetting of the district by the DCCC?

LoBiondo had originally pledged to serve only six terms. That would mean LoBiondo should now be serving his last year in Congress.

LoBiondo broke the pledge, saying he gave in to pressure from supporters.

Now, Democrats who hoped to win the seat this year are again faced with the prospect of running a candidate against the popular Republican, who usually wins his elections by wide margins.

Labor officials said they held Monday’s event because of concern that the National Democratic Committee is targeting LoBiondo’s seat in this year’s election…

Outside, Fayter said CPR, a new organization with as many as 100 members, is upset that labor’s decision to back LoBiondo now will stifle something necessary for Democracy — a strong challenge by an opponent and a differing point of view for voters to consider.

CPR is also upset that LoBiondo broke his term-limit pledge, she said.

“It’s time for a change,” Fayter said.