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Saturday | February 08, 2003

How Do You Like Your New Friends Now, James Hoffa Jr.?

Apparently Tom DeLay didnít get the memo from Karl Rove to be nice to the Teamsters and other politically advantageous unions. Or maybe he did and the GOPís support for the Teamsters is all a smokescreen. In any event, DeLay is trying to do a modified Trent Lott retreat from a National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation fundraising letter than bears his name.

The letter, which raised money for the National Right to Work Legal Defense and Education Foundation, criticized "the union bosses' drive to use the national emergencies we face today to grab more power." It said this drive "presents a clear and present danger to the security of the United States."

Last night Mr. DeLay's spokesman, Stuart Roy, said that Mr. DeLay disavowed the letter, dated Jan. 8, and had never seen it until Thursday. Mr. Roy said one of Mr. DeLay's assistants had made a mistake in approving the letter.

Stefan Gleason, the foundation's vice president for public affairs, said he was surprised by the disavowal. "I know that we deal with the people who have the authority," Mr. Gleason said. "Its up to the them. Presumably, it's his view because he signed the letter." (emphasis Soto)

Before Mr. DeLay distanced himself from the letter, James P. Hoffa, the president of the Teamsters, the union most vigorously courted by Republicans, wrote him a letter saying, "This anti-union screed not only insults the 1.4 million members of this union, it offends me personally."

Mr. Hoffa added, "While I take umbrage to any statement that questions the patriotism of myself and the members of this union, I consider such an accusation a particular affront to our Teamster Brothers and Sisters who are called to active duty."

Mr. Hoffa said the letter undercut the Teamsters' efforts to work with both Republicans and Democrats. He called on Mr. DeLay to retract the statements and to apologize to union members "for suggesting that their efforts to defend basic labor rights are tantamount to aiding and abetting the enemy.

Not wanting to stop at pissing off the Teamsters, the letter that DeLay signed that he does not remember manages to call into question the patriotism of firefighters, machinists, and others as well.

The letter on behalf of the Right to Work group, which opposes compulsory payment of union dues, gives several examples, including strikes, that it said demonstrated that union leaders have used national emergencies to increase their power.

The letter said that the longshoremen had "exploited America's urgent economic and national security needs" by forcing a shutdown of West Coast ports. It added that the machinists' union had "shamefully exploited the nation's critical war needs" when workers went on strike for two months last year at a Lockheed Martin plant in Georgia that assembled F-22 fighter jets and C130-J military transports.

Said the letter: "As the World Trade Center and Pentagon still smoldered, high-paid union lobbyists convinced Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy and Hillary Rodham Clinton to try ramming through legislation to force the nation's firefighters and policemen to accept union bosses as their exclusive workplace spokesmen."

Harold A. Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, wrote an angry letter to Mr. DeLay yesterday, noting that 343 firefighters died in the attacks on the World Trade Center.

"How dare you question the patriotism of the nation's firefighters and their elected union leaders," Mr. Schaitberger wrote, "all of whom have crawled down a burning hallway, faced uncontrolled flames and risked their lives countless times for the citizens of our great nation?"

The bill the letter attacked would have given the right to unionize to firefighters and police officers in the 19 states that do not allow public employees to form unions.

"I have never felt more outrage, astonishment and utter disgust than I feel today over the actions of an elected official," Mr. Schaitberger wrote.

The fund-raising letter said that labor's effort to expand its power during a national emergency was "not surprising, given the history of how Big Labor notoriously exploited the Second World War" to "expand dramatically its power at the expense of the war effort."

If Tom DeLay is going to call people who use national emergencies to increase their power unpatriotic, what does that make George W. Bush, Karl Rove, and well, even Tom DeLay and some of their corporate checkwriters?


Posted February 08, 2003 10:57 AM | Comments (37)


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