- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

Union members give President Bush high marks for the war against terrorism but are more skeptical of his policies toward organized labor.
Union members' attitudes toward the president are expected to play a significant role in upcoming elections as the AFL-CIO redirects its strategies to elect more pro-union candidates for Congress and state offices. The national labor federation is trying to regain declining membership by putting more of its money and effort into supporting political candidates who will support them. Overwhelmingly, the candidates are Democrats.
President Bush is not one of those favored by union leaders. However, rank-and-file members tend to be more conservative and Republican than their leadership.
Still, interviews with several union members during the AFL-CIO annual convention in Las Vegas last week suggest Mr. Bush's domestic policies are winning few converts in the labor movement.
Mary Gabriel, a change attendant at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, referred to the recent $15 billion federal bailout of airlines hurt by the September 11 attack when she said, "He helped the airlines but not the workers."
She said the bailout should have included compensation for the airline workers who were laid off as their employers lost customers.
Miss Gabriel said she found issues she liked and did not like about both presidential candidates in the last election.
"I couldn't make up my mind, so I didn't vote," she said.
Faith West, a booth cashier at the Mandalay Bay, said, "I do like his tactics of going after the terrorists, but I don't like him giving corporate tax cuts."
Miss West voted for Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore in the 2000 election.
Juan Rodriguez, an independent trucker from New York, said he was uncertain about Mr. Bush.
"As far as his trying to help the country in time of need, he's doing a great job," Mr. Rodriguez said. "I cannot speculate what he's going to do for the working man and woman of the United States."
Myrna Doney, a food and beverage hostess at the Flamingo Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, wondered about any correlation between the Bush administration and the September 11 attack.
"I'm not saying it's his fault, but how come these things happen during his time?" she asked.
Union leaders expressed no mixed feelings about Mr. Bush.
"He and his corporate backers are waging a vicious war on working families, and we condemn them for that," said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
Mr. Sweeney tried to rally union members to participate in the AFL-CIO's campaign to get 5,000 union members elected nationwide in 2002.
"Let us change the face of American politics by electing thousands of union members to office and change the course of government with the biggest legislative and political counterattack in our history," he said during a speech last week to the convention delegates.
Although the AFL-CIO says it likes the Bush administration policies on limited amnesty for illegal immigrants and protection of the steel industry from cheap foreign imports, the disagreements far outweigh the agreements.
Mr. Bush has angered organized labor by signing legislation that repealed ergonomics rules intended to make workplaces safer, by ordering a halt to a mechanics' strike against Northwest Airlines and by issuing an executive order against unions using members' dues for political purposes.
Organized labor has tried to fight back. The AFL-CIO bought television ad time in an unsuccessful bid to oppose "fast-track" trade authority for the president. They also use television ads to oppose the Republican economic-stimulus package, which they view as a giveaway to corporations.
Organized labor's political influence became obvious during the 2000 presidential campaign. Unions' get-out-the-vote programs and ground operatives helped Mr. Gore win in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania in the closest presidential election in history.

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