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Published: Wednesday, 2/20/2013

Lichtenwald letter scolding McNamara widely distributed to council, other unions

BY IGNAZIO MESSINA
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The head of a local Teamsters union blasted mayoral hopeful Councilman Joe McNamara in a letter that, ironically, starts off by assailing him for writing a Blade column opposing the anti-union “right-to-work” movement.

The letter written by Bill Lichtenwald, president of Teamsters Local 20 in Toledo — which also was sent to all members of council, the state’s Democratic Party chairman, and other unions — hinted that Mr. McNamara voted in 2010 for an “exigent circumstances” declaration to force concessions from most city labor unions. Mr. McNamara did not vote for that request from Mayor Mike Bell, which unilaterally imposed temporary cuts in employee pay and benefits because of the unforeseen drop in tax revenues over the previous two years.

Mr. Lichtenwald did not return telephone calls seeking comment.

Mr. McNamara said he did not know why his opposition to an anti-union measure would elicit a scathing letter from a union leader.

“You would have to ask Mr. Lichtenwald why he is refusing to stand with someone willing to fight the anti-labor Kasich-Bell agenda that hurts working families across Ohio,” Mr. McNamara said Tuesday.

In his letter dated Feb. 13, Mr. Lichtenwald said, “While I am glad you understand this issue is wrong for working men and women in Toledo, it is my strong sense that you are making a not-so veiled attempt to court those of us in organized labor with this ‘Joey-come-lately’ pandering.”

The letter goes on to criticize Mr. McNamara for voting to privatize the city’s refuse department; voting against fact-finding reports, and refusing to support Shaun Enright to replace former Councilman Phil Copeland. “This candidate was strongly backed by labor and almost unanimously by your party’s executive committee,” Mr. Lichtenwald wrote. He also calls Mr. McNamara “ego-driven” and “self-serving.”

Mr. McNamara shot back with a letter of his own, mailed Tuesday. “You distort, twist, and flat-out lie about my records on city council and support for organized labor,” he wrote.

Mr. McNamara also blasted Mr. Lichtenwald for the Teamsters’ support of Mayor Bell, an independent in 2009, over “pro-labor Democrat Keith Wilkowski.”

“The Teamsters not only endorsed Mike Bell, but contributed $11,200 to his campaign for mayor,” Mr. McNamara wrote. “Mike Bell won the election by less than 5 percent of the vote. While there are many factors in a campaign, Local 20’s support of Mike Bell mattered.”

Mr. McNamara reminded Mr. Lichtenwald that Mr. Bell pushed the exigent circumstances issue and supported Senate Bill 5, repealed by referendum, that would have stripped unions of many abilities.



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