Columbus -- Labor groups reiterated their support Aug. 5 for Democratic U.S. Sen. candidate Ted Strickland, after other unions endorsed Republican incumbent Sen. Rob Portman in their heated and tight race in Ohio.
Representatives of teachers, building trades and other unions, which endorsed the former governor's candidacy months ago, said Strickland's positions on trade, right to work, wages and other issues are more in line with working Ohioans.
"We're here today in solidarity with over 600,000 workers that we represent -- by far the lion's share of workers represented in the state of Ohio by a trade union," said Tim Burga, president of the Ohio AFL-CIO. "/ When I travel the state and I'm meeting with the local union leaders, whether it's in the building trades or the manufacturing sector, transportation trades, communication trades, the public sector, their support is with Ted Strickland because Ted Strickland has been with us while in Congress and while the governor and as a private citizen/ Rob Portman, on all the issues that matter most, is not with us."
Portman's campaign countered that the Aug. 5 press conference was proof that Strickland's campaign is growing increasingly concerned about the election.
"Ted Strickland's floundering campaign has national Democrats and their allies so worried that he's resorted to rolling out a year-old endorsement in an attempt to distract from the fact Ted just lost out on endorsements from more than 100,000 union members who are now supporting Rob," Michawn Rich, spokeswoman for the Portman campaign, said in a released statement. "Republicans, independents and Democrats are rallying behind Rob's campaign because they know he is the only candidate in this race with a proven record of standing up to China and protecting Ohio families and their jobs."
The Aug. 5 press conference in Columbus came after Portman picked up endorsements from the Ohio Conference of Teamsters and the Fraternal Order of Police. He also has the backing of the United Mine Workers of America and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 18.
But Berga said those unions are acting independently in endorsing Portman. A majority of labor members he has met with are solidly behind Strickland's candidacy.
"I think we're going to have a very motivated electorate, and I think organized labor -- those we represent, those that are not in a union but live in our communities that we come in contact with -- are ready to go out there and make their voice heard this November," Berga said.
The press conference in Columbus included comments from half a dozen representatives of public and private sector unions, including the Ohio Education Association, the Ohio Federation of Teachers, the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, the United Steelworkers and the Central Ohio Building & Construction Trades Council.
Each voiced concern about Portman's position on right to work legislation, efforts to increase the minimum wage and trade agreements, including the North American and Central America free trade agreements.
"We continually pass bad trade deals that export our jobs," said Dave Caldwell, district director for the United Steelworkers in Ohio. "Sen. Portman has consistently, whether as the U.S. trade representative/ or as a member of Congress, has consistently/ [voted for] bad trade policies/ On the other hand, we have Ted Strickland who consistently, whether as a member of Congress or the governor of the state, has been working diligently in every way that he possibly can to save those jobs in Ohio and the rest of the United States."
Marc Kovac is the Dix Capital Bureau Chief. Email him at email@example.com or on Twitter at OhioCapitalBlog.