Confessions of a Hoosier Democrat

Blogging Indiana Politics and the 2008 Presidential Race.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Bayh and Labor

National Journal has a nice overview of Sen Bayh's relationship with organized labor. Contrary to the beliefs of some in the blogosphere (*cough*cough*Sirota*cough*), Bayh is not the anti-Christ supporting Free Trade and shunning organized labor. On the contrary, the labor movement leaders think very highly of him...

Some highlights...
In discussions with reporters and union leaders, Bayh comes off sounding like an eager student of labor history who's just aced his final exam. Over the past year, he's met privately with the heads of at least a dozen major unions in both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition. There's another dinner planned for May 24. He's developed a labor-friendly stump speech that regularly receives applause. His outreach effort was "spearheaded by and with advice from his long time friends in labor," an adviser said.
Bayh's career AFL-CIO rating is 91. And his solidarity with labor extends to those public employee unions who've become the DLC's biggest bugbears. He's scored a perfect 100 rating from the American Federation of Teachers for three consecutive legislative cycles. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, as of 2004, gave Bayh a 90 percent rating.
Here's Bayh, speaking before the UAW: "We ought to slap a countervailing tariff on all the products coming out of China and level that playing field to do right by our working men and women." For one well-known labor-connected adviser to presidential rival, that line was astonishing. "It was an enormous leap for him on trade," said this person. "Before that speech, he was basically a free trader."
Bayh traces his bonds with labor to 1980, the year his father lost his Senate seat to Dan Quayle. Speaking to the United Auto Workers in Washington earlier this year, he recalled his father's visit to a local Ford parts plant on a chilly November morning after his father's defeat. "You know, this is kind of a walk down memory lane for me," he told the labor crowd. "Several of the Hoosiers here on my way in said, 'Evan, we love your father, and I said, 'me too!' My father … would be the first one to say, he never would have had that opportunity if I it hadn't been for the UAW." The UAW and other unions provided critical support to Bayh's gubernatorial election. He reciprocated in office. Bayh recalls a promotional banner at a Terre Haute, IN airport touting Indiana's super-low workers' compensation rates. The anecdote now features in Bayh's stump speech to labor.
This year's UAW legislative conference in Washington was sober. The union has been locked in a no-win battle with GM and other companies. But Bayh had an easy time with the audience, dropping the names of at least a dozen Indiana and national labor leaders during the first two minutes of his speech. (Every union official interviewed for this article referred nonchalantly to the senator as "Evan," as if he were no less one of the guys than an assembly like worker named Mike Shamansky.) Bayh paused at several points to rope in the dignitaries as valuators. "Mike, do you remember that?" he said of Republican efforts to overturn Davis-Bacon laws. "Hey Tommy, do you remember that?" he said to an Indiana labor leader who supported his executive order as IN GOV to allow the state's workers to bargain collectively . The union members gave him a standing ovation when he finished.


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