By Ester Cross
Union leaders came to the Democratic National Convention to ensure their values are represented in the next president of the United States, said Tim Paulson, Executive Director of the San Francisco labor council.
“Some of the values that Barack Obama has and we in the labor movement have – a right to work, vote, have health care with dignity and a good living wage – that should be the basic civil rights in the United States and we really feel like those are being taken away,” Paulson said.
Paul Toner, president of the Massachusetts Teachers’ Union, said MTA and the National Education Association are working hard to reelect President Obama. Toner said the major issues for his union members are funding for schools, jobs for teachers, small classroom sizes and individualized attention for all students.
“If Mitt Romney wins the presidency, we are very concerned that he is going to do everything he can to undercut unions, undercut the middle class, give tax breaks to the rich and disinvest in America,” Toner said.
Seven members of the MTA are serving as delegates from the state of Massachusetts.
Marge Robinson-Faville, president of the Michigan chapter of Service Employees International Union, said she hopes President Obama will continue on the path of job creation and maintain the American Dream of opportunity for all citizens.
“I would also really like to see him standing up for the 99 percent,” Robinson-Faville said. “I think that’s what this convention is about, the working men and women of the United States and how we can make the next four years work for them because I don’t think it’s been working for them for a long time.”
She said the economic downturn has impacted the 2.2 million members of SEIU through cuts in benefits, pensions and health care. She said members are most concerned about maintaining Obamacare so everyone has right to quality health care.
The Supreme Court ruling in 2010 on Citizens United, which held that corporations and unions are protected under the First Amendment from restrictions on contributions to political campaigns, has been strongly criticized by union leaders as undemocratic.
Although the ruling allowed unions to donate unlimited funds to campaigns, Chief officer of the California Labor Federation Art Pulaski said he opposes the practice both for corporations and unions.
“We don’t want the opportunity to give more money to campaigns because there is a lopsided practice now that nobody can compete with,” Pulaski said. “They call corporation people and say they can give unlimited money to campaigns which skews the political methods in the nation and skews our democracy.”
Pulaski and California labor leaders are fighting California’s Proposition 32 which, he claims, will extend the rules under Citizens United to local and state campaigns.
“We need public financing in campaigns,” he said. “I believe because public financing of campaigns is the only way to level the playing field and to make democracy work for all voters.”