Behind in the polls and missing their star candidate, area union members and a large cast of their leaders soldiered on last night at a rally at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 8 hall in Rossford.
Toledo union officials announced on Friday that Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore would attend the rally. But Mr. Gore spent the day in Florida, where he holds a narrow lead over Texas Gov. George W. Bush. A Blade-commissioned poll had Mr. Gore eight points behind Governor Bush in Ohio yesterday.
Those numbers - and the absence of Mr. Gore - did nothing to deter the enthusiasm of the crowd, which filled every seat in the hall and left several hundred supporters standing. They munched on hot dogs, drank beer and pop, carried signs and wore buttons boosting their favorite candidates, and kibitzed among themselves as much as they listened to the dozen or so speakers who paraded to the mike.
Many Democratic candidates attended the rally.
While prescription drugs, education, Social Security, and Medicare were the most frequently mentioned issues, the single constant theme, as it is at nearly every union-organized election rally, was this: A vote for Gore-Lieberman is a vote for working class people.
Ohio AFL-CIO President Bill Burga, who is leading union officials on a three-day, eight-city bus tour around the state, said in an interview he's not concerned about the polls or the absence of Mr. Gore, who last campaigned in Ohio a month ago.
“He's going to where he has to to win,” he said. “I guess Florida is a key state. Ohio is not a Democratic state, but it's a union state. Democrats get lucky sometimes and win. It takes a large turnout of union people voting [to make it happen].
“Imagine, Republicans have all the elected officials at the state level. You would think that they would have a large lead. But they don't. I feel Gore will win Ohio because of organized labor and what we're doing these last few days.”
Others reinforced Mr. Burga's view and added their own spin to the challenge.
“Who wins the presidency will be determined by who gets their people to the polls,” said Bill Lucy, secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees.
“George W. is not a friend of union people, Latinos, women, or working families, and I sure don't want that son-of-a-Bush in the White House,” said Linda Chavez-Thompson, executive vice president of the AFL-CIO.
Added AFSCME President Gerry McEntee: “The Republicans have all the money, but we have the one thing they don't have - all the people.”
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney also spoke at the affair after having led a similar rally earlier at a Ford plant in Monroe. He was to join Mr. Burga's bus tour today.