Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa has his hands raised by Al Mixon, left, International Vice-President, and AFSCME President Lee Saunders, right, Thursday after speaking during a rally at Teamsters Local Union 20 in Toledo. In the background is Bill Lichtenwald, president of Ohio Conference of Teamsters and Local 20.
The Blade/Andy Morrison
Two of the nation’s most powerful union leaders joined local labor officials Thursday at a rally urging their members to approve Issue 2 and keep President Obama in the White House.
James Hoffa, president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, and Lee Saunders, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, spoke to about 150 local union members outside the Teamsters Local 20 hall on South Hawley Street.
The union leaders, who rallied around the same causes earlier Thursday in Cincinnati, told the crowd in Toledo that Ohio is a battleground state and President Obama will fight for the issues that are important to the working, middle-class families in Ohio and across the country.
“Mitt Romney, I got some bad news for you,” Mr. Hoffa said. “You ain’t going to win Ohio and you ain’t going to be president.”
Mr. Saunders, who was elected president of AFSCME in June, told the union members that they and others in the state control the destiny of the election and President Obama will fight to represent the 47 percent of Americans.
“The only way that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan get close to that White House is if they stay in the line on the tour with everybody else,” Mr. Saunders said from a stage inside a trailer emblazoned with the Teamsters logo.
In response to the union leaders’ comments, Romney spokesman Christopher Maloney said: “President Obama’s allies have resorted to recycling false and debunked attacks because they can’t sell Ohioans on Barack Obama’s record of fewer jobs, more debt, and lower incomes.
"Not only did President Obama’s stimulus bill fail to meet his own standard for lowering unemployment, but Republicans and Ohio Democrats have loudly condemned his weak-kneed approach toward standing up [to] China. It’s middle-class Ohioans who have paid the real price for President Obama’s ineffective leadership.”
Mr. Hoffa and Mr. Saunders also urged union members and others to vote yes on Issue 2, which would amend the state constitution to place congressional redistricting in the hands of an independent, state-funded citizens’ commission.
Mr. Hoffa compared the campaign to win approval of the issue to last year’s union-driven rallies to repeal Senate Bill 5, which rewrote the state’s collective bargaining laws for public employees.
“That’s what labor is about. That is how we got to fight now,” he said.
Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20, said that the statewide proposal would ensure election of candidates who will look out for the interests of the working class.
“For too long Ohio’s politicians have manipulated redistricting to affect the outcome of elections and protect their jobs.
"Voting for Issue 2 will make sure that they can’t rig the system anymore,” he said.