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Labor, Community Protest Palin Fundraiser in Burlingame
Several hundred protestors greeted Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin when she visited the San Francisco Bay Area to raise funds for the sagging McCain-Palin campaign Sunday, October 5 in Burlingame.
Labor, Community Protest Palin Fundraiser in Burlingame
By Paul Burton
Managing Editor, San Mateo County Labor
Several hundred protesters greeted Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin when she visited the San Francisco Bay Area to raise funds for the sagging McCain-Palin campaign Sunday, October 5 in Burlingame.
The demonstration was organized by the San Mateo County Central Labor Council, and supported by the local Democratic Party and many community based organizations. Union members were out in force to send a message to Palin and McCain that working families would not tolerate another four years of the George W. Bush policies that have wrecked havoc on the U.S economy. The Labor Council’s Executive Secretary-Treasurer Shelley Kesssler said McCain and Palin are trying to portray themselves as reformers and populists but the record doesn’t match the rhetoric. “Palin says it’s all about job creation,” Kessler said. “But how can you create good jobs when jobs are being sent overseas? And when there is no investment in creating good living wage jobs? McCain says he has a health care plan, but under his plan your benefits would be taxed. McCain has voted against the Employee Free Choice Act and against raising the minimum wage. He’s not on the side of working families.”
Kessler continued, “Sarah Palin’s folksy comments are just a ruse to cover for her lack of experience and knowledge. She says she and McCain are reformers and mavericks, but McCain has voted with Bush 90 percent of the time. He isn’t an independent vote in the Senate if he jumps through the same hoops as Bush. We want real reform, not their kind; they just want to ‘re-form’ the ability of corporations to rip-off workers and put corporate interests ahead of the middle class.”
McCain’s anti-labor voting record and policies brought out many members of the building trades and other unions to protest Palin. McCain has voted to undermine the prevailing wage provisions of the Davis-Bacon laws, voted to allow federal contractors to hire permanent workers to replace workers on strike, and supported Bush’s effort to take away overtime pay from 6 million workers in 2004. McCain also voted against the 2004 and 2005 highway bills that would create about 5 million jobs and opposed school construction funding in 2002. He also voted to lower standards for state apprenticeship programs, supporting the anti-union position of his friend California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The governor has endorsed McCain but did not appear with his running mate Palin at any of her California events.
Several members of the Painters and Tapers (IUPAT) District Council 16 were on hand to protest Palin. Juan Calderon said, “We’ve had eight years of struggling. We need a change for the people, for working class families.” IUPAT Local 913 member Tom Linebarger from San Mateo County said, “We want to remind Americans that Palin would lead the country even further to the right, in the direction we’re going that hasn’t been good for the people.” Linebarger said he felt it was likely Palin could become president given Senator McCain’s health issues, and with her narrow world view, that was a dangerous proposition.
Pedro Mendez, an organizer with the Machinists Local 1414 in San Mateo, said he was protesting Palin’s visit because, “We need to have a change, and it’s very important to have a Democratic administration that supports union members. The Machinists have endorsed Barack Obama and he will sign the Employee Free Choice Act and help the labor movement grow.” Mendez said that McCain would be a continuation of Bush. “McCain keeps saying the economy is strong, when we know the policies of Bush have weakened the economy. They are liars; we can’t trust them anymore.”
“Another thing is we need to end the war,” Mendez said. His 26 year old daughter is currently serving as an Army platoon sergeant, on her fifth tour of duty. “I’m concerned, as a parent, going through this since 2001, with the uncertainty of when she’ll be called back for another tour. The young people serving deserve a chance to live their lives but this administration is playing games with the troops.”
Vietnam Vet and member of Veterans for Peace George Johnson said he agreed with the assessment of retired General Wesley Clark that McCain’s experience as a prisoner of war isn’t a qualification to be president. “I know a half dozen former POWs who agree and would not vote for him. McCain is a loose cannon and can’t be trusted. I’m here because I’m tired of wars and the working class paying for them.” Johnson said he was concerned as a retired county employee and member of AFSCME Local 829 that his pension was in jeopardy. “The Republicans have ruined the economy; we can’t let Sarahcuda and John W McCain do more damage.”
AFSCME Local 829 president Becky Nassarre said that because of the Bush policies, San Mateo County was in dire straights. “The county lost $150 million with the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy. We can’t stand another four years of the policies that allowed that to happen. Our own County is mentioned on page 13 and 14 of the bailout bill. We’ve been hit hard.” She said it was time to end corporate welfare and help working people. As a car with McCain supporters drove into the hotel parking lot she called out, “Give ‘em a bum check like they give us!”
John Ulrich of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 101 said that for working families, the Republicans and McCain have been a disaster. “They’ve sent our jobs away and taken away our ability to afford to buy homes or have credit. And now they come here to get our money, in our community.”
Mark Gagliardi of the Office and Professional Employees (OPEIU) Local 277 said it was important to protest Palin. “The San Francisco Bay area is a working class area, a union area,” he said. “For her to waltz in here for her thousand dollar a plate event in the backyard of working families is an outrage. McCain has voted against union members during his career in the Senate.” Commenting on the smaller group of McCain supporters who gathered near the hotel where Palin was speaking, Gagliardi pointed out that some of the McCain supporters at the rally were from working class families who he said the Republicans will try to appeal to, “but once they are in office, those voters will be forgotten and there will be no help for the working class.” Press reports indicated that Palin raised about $2.5 million from the 1,300 donors who paid from $1,000 to $2,300 to have brunch with her.
Besides union members there were many students and youth protesting. Fifteen year old Staci Flores comes from a union family; her mother Terri is a member of the California State Employees Association (SEIU Local 1000) and father Carlos a member of the Teamsters, recently laid off from his job as a press operator at the San Francisco Chronicle. “I’m for Barack Obama,” said Flores. “If you watched the Vice Presidential debate, it was clear that Sarah Palin didn’t know what she was talking about; she couldn’t answer the questions. I don’t want her representing the United States as Vice President.”
There were also many women protesting, expressing their opposition to Palin and concerned that Palin and McCain’s continuation of Bush’s agenda would turn back the clock on women’s rights. Among the signs displayed were “Hillary supporter for Obama,” “Sarah Palin: the real bridge to nowhere,” “Soccer mama for Obama,” “Palin does not speak for us,” and “Vote issues, not gender.”
Palin used her visit to California to play the role of attack dog against Barack Obama, trotting out tired accusations that Obama was “palling around with terrorists” because he happened to serve on the board of a non-profit in Chicago where former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers also served. Palin and McCain are expected to ramp up their negative campaign against Obama, trying to label him as a radical to strike fear into undecided voters nervous about change or unsure about electing the first African American president, who happens to have an exotic sounding name. Palin’s attacks have failed to sway independents in California, who polls show favor Obama. As one sign at the rally said regarding Palin: “Pit Bill—All Bull.”
“Palin and McCain’s smear campaign against Obama is designed to cover for the fact that they have no real solutions to solve any of the problems we face,” said the Labor Council’s Shelley Kesssler. “But if she wants to ‘take the gloves off’ she can expect to get a black eye.”
At a rally in North Carolina the same day, Obama said McCain was trying to distract voters from the country’s economic problems. “On Friday, we learned that we’d lost another 159,000 American jobs in September,” Obama said. “It was the ninth straight month of job losses—more than three quarters of a million this year, including 24,000 here in North Carolina. And it came just as we finished a week in which our financial markets teetered on the brink of disaster. Yet instead of addressing these crises, Senator McCain’s campaign has announced that they plan to ‘turn the page’ on the discussion about our economy and spend the final weeks of this campaign launching Swiftboat-style attacks on me.”
Unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO as well as Change to Win were well represented at the event to oppose Palin-McCain and support Obama-Biden; they included members of the Plumbers, Painters, Carpenters, Service Employees, Food and Commercial Workers, AFSCME, Office and Professional Employees, Machinists, Electrical Workers, Letter Carriers, California Nurses Association, and Teamsters.