Charlotte chant: "We are union, the mighty, mighty union!"

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Delegates here for the Democratic National Convention applauded as union men and women marched through Charlotte in the annual Labor Day parade chanting, "We are the union, the mighty, mighty union."

Members of United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 5285 from the Freightliner truck plant in Mt. Holly, N.C. wore tee shirts emblazoned with a photo of President Obama and the message, "He saved our jobs, our industry. Let's save his job in November."

Marching with the UAW on a sultry late summer morning were big contingents of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the United Food and Commercial Workers, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Locomotive Engineers, Firefighters, the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and many other unions representing African American, Latino, and white workers in the Tar Heel State.

"This is a constant reminder that workers make our lives easier every single day," James Andrew, President of the North Carolina AFL-CIO told the World. "Work connects us all. Either your working for a paycheck, you have worked and are drawing benefits or you are looking for a job."

President Obama, he added, "saved our jobs. Now let's save his job. That is our agenda: to reelect the President so that he can continue to create jobs and pull this economy out of the ditch."

Ricky McDowell, President of UAW Local 5285 was leading the chants of the contingent from the Daimler-owned Freightliner truck plant in Mt. Holly. "We want to send the message that on this Labor Day labor is alive and well in the State of North Carolina. We are working 100 percent to reelect President Obama."

The Mt. Holly plant, he added, is 98.5 percent union even though North Carolina is a "Right to work" (for less) union busting state. "It means that 98.5 percent of the workers were asked if they wanted to belong to the union and they said, 'Yes! I want to belong to the union!' They have a voice inside the workplace. They also make better than a living wage so they can take care of their families."

Asked what the economic prospects are in these uncertain economic times he replied, "We're still hiring people. In March of this year, President Obama came to our plant. The atmosphere was overwhelming. The members of our union welcomed him. Daimler, the owners, also welcomed him."

Will North Carolina be carried once again by Obama? McDowell replied, "I think people really do see who is for the working people. Obama is the only President who relates to working people."

One of the largest, most spirited contingents were members of the Women's Committee of the Democratic Party dressed in bright blue tee shirts and carrying a banner, "Women Know Labor." Vivian Mitchell, one of the members of the contingent told the World, "We're going to get Obama back in. The Republican war on women is really nasty."

Susan Higgins, president of the Democratic Women of Mecklenburg County said, "President Obama led when he pushed through the Lily Ledbetter Act to ensure equal pay for women. He has appointed more women to top positions in his administration. He named two women to the U.S. Supreme Court."

By contrast, the Republicans have launched their "war on women," she said.

Missouri's GOP Senate candidate, Todd Akin, talks of "legitimate rape" and would deny abortion rights even for the victims. Joann Durham, standing beside Higgins exclaimed, "It's ludicrous! There is no such thing as 'legitimate rape.'"

Now the Republicans disown Akin, demanding that he withdraw as a candidate. "But Akin was saying exactly what the Republicans feel. It came out of Akin's mouth."

It fits together with the so-called "Ryan Budget" named for Romney's running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. "That budget targets women and children for billions in cuts in education and healthcare."

Higgins interjected, "We need four more years of President Obama. We want to move forward not backward with the Republicans."

Scott Thrower, President of IBEW Local 379, marching with 60 or more union electricians also forecast an Obama win. "Things are picking up. We've got about 95 percent of our guys working. We have 500 members in our local. I believe that if Romney is elected, our economy will go back in the opposite direction."

Obama, he said, ordered the enforcement of the Davis-Bacon Act to insure that workers receive the prevailing wage on any project receiving federal funding. "I heard Romney in a recent speech promise that if he is elected he will rescind Davis-Bacon. I believe with all my heart that President Obama will carry North Carolina."

Photo: At center, Susan Higgins, president, Mecklenburg County Democratic Party Women's Committee. At her left is Vivian Mitchell and at her right is Joann Durham, all three members of the Women's Committee. Tim Wheeler/PW

 

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