CHARLOTTE, N.C. At a standing-room-only gathering on Tuesday punctuated with standing ovations, national union leader Richard Trumka told delegates representing organized labor they must get out the vote for President Barack Obama.
Did you hear all the union bashing last week in Tampa? asked Trumka, AFL-CIO president, as labor delegates to the Democratic National Convention groaned at the reference to the Republican convention.
Sisters and brothers, we have every reason this year to go the extra mile. Never has there been a starker contrast in the choices facing us as a nation.
We need you to commit to talk to 20 people. Friends, neighbors, anybody you can, and get them to the polls on Election Day. If you do that, we win, hands down.
With 400 to 500 attending roughly half the estimated 1,000 labor delegates believed to be at the convention the scene didnt match attitudes by some national union leaders who vowed to stay away from the convention this week.
You cant imagine how great it is to see all these labor folks in North Carolina, said opening speaker James Andrews, president of the N.C. AFL-CIO.
Big unions were at odds with the Democrats for picking Charlotte, citing North Carolinas status as the least-unionized state in the nation, with less than 3 percent of workers in unions. And N.C. law prohibits collective bargaining for public employees.
Thats all the more reason to meet in this city, several attendees and speakers said.
Its so important to actually come here and support the workers, said Cindy Kirby, 46, a letter carrier and secretary-treasurer of the Colorado AFL-CIO.
Audience members included more than a dozen national union leaders, including American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten, Iron Workers President Walter Wise, and Kannapolis native J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees.
Trumka, Andrews and other speakers urged attendees to back local, state and national candidates focusing on health care, living wages and quality public education.