Democratic convention officials Friday rejected a Charlotte man's claim that his company would be denied business because he doesn't employ union labor.
The claim by printer John Monteith ricocheted through the blogosphere and provided fresh fodder to Republicans from Charlotte to Raleigh.
Monteith, head of business development for Heritage Printing & Graphics, told the Observer that he was given a blunt message by an official of the convention host committee.
"John, I'm sorry to tell you," he recalled being told, "we have been told that unless you're union you're wasting your time."
Suzi Emmerling, a spokeswoman for the host committee, said the official - whom neither she nor Monteith would identify - "misspoke." She also said Monteith misunderstood the bidding process.
Dan Murrey, the committee's executive director, said union labor has not been a requirement for convention contracts. "The notion that the Host Committee will only allow unionized firms to bid is categorically untrue," Murrey said in a statement. "The Committee for Charlotte 2012 encourages all firms to submit proposals for goods and services."
Convention officials said some printing contracts have already gone to local, unionized firms. Last week, two local building and design companies partnered with national firms in winning contracts worth $7 million.
It's unclear to what extent they'll use union labor. Convention officials say the firms will use union workers or pay "the prevailing local wage."
Convention CEO Steve Kerrigan has said while "maximizing union labor," the convention will create local jobs.
Because North Carolina is the nation's least unionized state, the twin goals could be hard to reconcile. Convention contract proposals say union participation is just one factor in awarding contracts, along with considerations such as local ties and participation of minorities and women.
After Monteith pitched his story to Redstate.com, a conservative web site, it spread on the Internet. It landed on Politico and the Drudge Report, and on the screens of national and local Republicans.
Republican mayoral candidate Scott Stone, who has repeatedly sought to make the convention's use of union labor an issue in his race against Democratic Mayor Anthony Foxx, warned against Charlotte workers being "left in the dust."
On Friday afternoon, the Foxx campaign responded. "Mr. Stone is perhaps the only person in Charlotte who thinks $150 million in local economic impact flowing from the convention is bad," a spokesman said in a statement.