View Full Version : Union Members Pack Obama's Town Halls

08-17-2009, 01:57 AM
Union Members Pack Obama's Town Halls [Unions Have Become "Backbone" of Obama's Efforts]

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. | Andrew Carillo and Melissa McCollister cheered loudly from near the back row of the Central High School gymnasium as President Obama stepped on stage to make his pitch for health care reform.

The two organizers for the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 7 proudly wore their union T-shirts, and boisterously supported the president because of what they think his initiative will do for the 25,000 grocery stockers, meatpackers and warehouse workers that they represent.

"We have to negotiate for health care every time a contract comes up," said Mr. Carillo, 24, a union employee. "Year after year, it just gets more and more expensive."

Members of the nation's labor unions have made up a hefty segment of the audiences that flocked to town halls Mr. Obama held in the past week, and they have played an even larger role in a nationwide campaign for an insurance overhaul. Financially, and with boots on the ground, unions have become the backbone of the president's effort.

Last week, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was part of a group, largely funded by the pharmaceutical industry's lobby, that launched $12 million in television ads to support the president's health care push, and the coalition Americans for Stable Quality Care could spend tens of millions of dollars more this fall.

The AFL-CIO, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees are among the partners in another group, Health Care for America Now, which has committed millions more dollars to advertising that is running now in a half-dozen states.

But money is only part of the equation; the most potent contribution from labor has been its people. Last month, opponents of the president's health care efforts began protesting, at times vociferously, as members of Congress convened town-hall meetings in their districts.