Mine Workers Likely Not Supporting President This Time Around

The United Mine Workers of America fully supported President Obama in his 2008 bid against John McCain. But as Obama seeks re-election this November, it appears the coal union’s support has cooled. Not that coal workers are clamoring to help elect Mitt Romney either, mind you. National Journal has the interesting saga:

“As of right now, we’ve elected to stay out of this election,” said Mike Caputo, a UMWA official and a Democratic member of the West Virginia House of Delegates. “Our members right now have indicated to stay out of this race, and that’s why we’ve done that…. I don’t think quite frankly that coalfield folks are crazy about either candidate.”

Both candidates are trying to prove otherwise to voters in coal-intensive swing states. Earlier this week the Obama campaign released in the first coal-issue ad of this cycle, claiming that Romney has flip-flopped his position on coal. The ad includes comments that Romney made as Massachusetts governor in 2003 standing in front of a coal plant, saying that he wouldn’t support jobs that kill people.

For his part, Romney is claiming Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency is waging a war on coal with a slew of regulations.

The 54-year-old Caputo, who grew up across the street from a coal plant near Fairmont in central West Virginia and has been in the coal industry virtually his whole life, said he couldn’t remember a time UMWA did not endorse a presidential candidate. Caputo is a vice president on the UMWA’s International Executive Board.

“It’s unusual,” he said during an interview at UMWA’s Fairmont office. Caputo, who describes himself as a “hard-core Democrat,” intends to vote for Obama. “I’m loyal to my party,” he said.

David Kameras, a UMWA spokesman based at the union’s headquarters in Virginia just outside of Washington, D.C., said UMWA has not officially completed its endorsement selection decisions for the 2012 election and expects to do so by about mid-September. In 2008, UMWA endorsed Obama in May of that year.

"Our members count on coal-fired power plants and burning of coal to keep jobs,” Caputo said. “We’re a very Democratic union and we try to listen to the rank and file. They’ve sent a clear message that they’re not supportive of the environmental rules that are being put in place.”

Caputo pointed out that many of the biggest EPA rules, including one finalized last December to control mercury and other air toxic pollution from coal plants, were first enacted under Republican administrations, including President George H.W. Bush.

“A lot of our members don’t realize that,” Caputo said. “But whoever is in charge is going to get blamed.”

Caputo also noted that newly discovered resources of shale natural gas found all over the country, including the coal-intensive states of West Virginia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, have contributed to coal’s decline as low natural gas prices compel utilities to shift from coal to gas as a power generator.

But politically, the EPA is the culprit for the coal industry’s woes. Throughout Appalachia where Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia converge, the coal industry’s disgruntlement with Obama is plastered on yard signs and billboards.

One billboard alongside a freeway near the Pennsylvania and West Virginia border said drivers were entering “The Obama administration’s no jobs zone.” The billboard was sponsored by a coal-industry group, the Federation for American Coal, Energy, and Security (FACES of Coal). Yard signs seen along back roads and throughout towns juxtapose the word “coal” with “fire Obama.”

Labor groups almost always align with Democratic candidates, and Caputo said the UMWA would be very unlikely to endorse Romney given his record with the coal industry and his positions on labor issues.

“Governor Romney’s record on coal isn’t any better,” Caputo said, referring to the comments Romney made in 2003 that were featured in the Obama ad—and the fact that Romney’s former air chief in Massachusetts, Gina McCarthy, now holds a similar position at Obama’s EPA. “Mitt Romney has never been a friend of our industry," Caputo said. "Now he’s out preaching he’s all for coal, but his history sure doesn’t show that.”

Hat tip to the Chamber’s Jeff Brantley for the story lead.

Gerard: Democrats Hoping to Capitalize on 2008 Momentum

RJ Gerard is communications director for the Indiana Democratic Party.

Indiana went Democratic blue in 2008 for the first time in 40 years because like the rest of America, Hoosiers wanted change. The Indiana Democratic delegation has worked feverishly to bring that change to Indiana. And while the upcoming primaries should not bring any significant surprises for Democrats, the Indiana Democratic Party is poised to field a solid slate of candidates from federal to local elections this fall.

Democrats are keenly focused on holding on to all of their Congressional seats at the federal level, and feel it’s critical to maintain control of the Indiana State House of Representatives. Equally important is the Indiana U.S. Senate race, which will be in the national spotlight with former Vanderburgh County Sheriff and U.S. Congressman Brad Ellsworth working hard to replace retiring Sen. Evan Bayh.

Hoosiers saw change become reality with the passing of health care and insurance reform. Showing courage and leadership, all Hoosier Democratic members of Congress, including Sen. Bayh, voted for the measure, while the entire Republican delegation voted against it.

This one issue provides insight into this upcoming election; whether to continue on the path of hope and change, or turn back to the failed policies of the past.

Repealing health care reform would be disastrous for Hoosier families; 820,000 Indiana residents would lose health care, 76,800 small businesses would lose existing tax credits and appalling insurance practices of the past – such as denying coverage due to preexisting conditions – would be reinstated.

Let us not forget that it was the Republican Party, during eight years of GOP control, that turned record surpluses into record deficits and favored the special interests and lobbyists over the interests of ordinary Hoosiers.

Even today, Hoosier Republicans are still standing with Wall Street and opposing the reforms that would protect Americans and prevent future bailouts. To the contrary, Indiana Democrats are looking out for Hoosier families and demanding accountability from Wall Street.

In response to these failed Republican policies of the past, President Obama and Hoosier Democrats have provided tax cuts to 95 percent of working Americans through the Recovery Act, tax cuts to small businesses and instituted polices that are helping to get our deficit under control, turn our economy around and create jobs.

The Indiana GOP and its candidates represent the failed ideas of the past. The time for change has come. Hoosier Democrats are working diligently to make sure it happens.

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EDITOR’S NOTE: Out of respect for our guest bloggers, we will not be allowing anonymous comments on their blogs this week. Additionally, the Indiana Chamber does not necessarily share the opinions of our guest bloggers.

Chamber Statement on Bayh Decision

Indiana Chamber President Kevin Brinegar comments on today’s announcement by Sen. Evan Bayh to not seek a third term:

“Senator Bayh has enjoyed a long and distinguished career serving Hoosiers. He has done many positive things for Indiana, both as governor and U.S. senator, and we  wish him and his family nothing but the best going forward. I believe he is quite genuine with his comments that the hostile political atmosphere and partisan bickering were the tipping points for his decision. When he was governor, he was known for his fiscal conservatism and made a point of working with both sides of the aisle to get results. Not being able to see that happen in the Senate and Congress in general, where it is sorely needed, must be a source of frustration and disappointment for him, as it has been for Hoosier employers and their workers the Chamber represents.

“In particular, the events over the past six months in Congress obviously have changed the senator’s belief that meaningful, positive outcomes for issues like health care, debt reduction and job creation could be achieved. In August, when he spoke to the Chamber’s board of directors, he was quite optimistic that Congress would deal with these issues in a bipartisan, productive way to get things done for Americans. Unfortunately, things appear to have gone in the exact opposite direction.

“From the Chamber’s standpoint, we have always found Sen. Bayh to be thoughtful and consistent in his decisions and a willing listener to the business community’s position. During his time in Washington, the senator has routinely participated in our annual D.C. Fly-in trip, meeting in-person with business leaders from throughout the state to discuss the issues important to them. While Sen. Bayh did not always vote with the Chamber position, we respected his stance and felt that courtesy was returned to us.”

McGovern & Heritage Agree: Employee Free Choice Act Light on “Free”

James Sherk of the Heritage Foundation offers his assertion that the proposed Employee Free Choice Act effectively ends worker privacy and hinders their ability to make personal choices regarding union membership. He argues that while EFCA could be a boon to union dues, it would help little else and deliver a crushing blow to worker freedom:

Organized labor’s highest legislative priority is the deceptively named Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). EFCA replaces secret ballot elections—the method by which most workers join unions—with publicly signed union cards. While eliminating secret ballots is extremely unpopular, many EFCA support­ers argue that the legislation merely gives workers the choice between organizing using secret ballots or pub­licly signed cards. This argument is false; nothing in the legislation gives workers any control over union organizing tactics. Though EFCA still allows for secret ballot elections under unusual circumstances, stan­dard union organizing tactics ensure that publicly signed union cards will dominate the recognition pro­cess. As a result, the misnamed Employee Free Choice Act effectively eliminates secret ballot elections.

Former Democratic Senator and presidential nominee George McGovern also penned this column for the Wall Street Journal earlier this month:

To my friends supporting EFCA I say this: We cannot be a party that strips working Americans of the right to a secret-ballot election … To fail to ensure the right to vote free of intimidation and coercion from all sides would be a betrayal of what we have always championed.