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Ohio, Michigan and Florida unions gear up for presidential election

STEPHON JOHNSON Amsterdam News Staff | 4/12/2012, 2:09 p.m.

With 2012 shaping up to be one of the more important presidential elections in United States history, unions in the political battleground states of Ohio, Michigan and Florida are ready to make the push for their candidate of choice: President Barack Obama.

Jason Perlman, communications manager for the AFL-CIO in Ohio, spoke with the AmNews about how he plans to re-energize the organization to vote in November.

"The one thing we learned [in 2008] is that our members are geared toward issues," said Perlman. "We have to educate on the differences between the Republican candidate and Barack Obama and all the things he's done, including getting the auto industry on track. Romney said the bailout was a mistake, but for the auto industry here, it's been a godsend."

Perlman understands that there may not be as much enthusiasm for Obama as there was in 2008, but he wants to remind the people in his ranks that they're not necessarily voting for the person, but for the policies.

"You're not voting for or against Barack Obama; what you're really voting for is policy," said Perlman. "We had a good kickstart in the social media aspect and communicating online last year, so I think we're really going to have to figure out how to use that energy in the presidential election. You don't have to be gung ho for the president, but you can be gung ho against the opponent."

AFSCME, the labor union that represents government workers, is running an ad in Florida that tries to tie in Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney with that state's Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

"What kind of a businessman is Mitt Romney?" says a voiceover in the ad. "While Romney was a director of the Damon Corporation, the company was defrauding Medicare of millions." The thrust of the commercial is that Romney achieved ill-gotten gains due to a Medicare fraud scandal, and Scott's old company, Columbia HCA, was also involved in Medicare fraud. The ad literally morphs a picture of Romney into a picture of Scott.

While AFSCME is focusing on the airwaves, another union is using TV and more to get the word out for this upcoming election.

Ray Holman is the legislative liaison for UAW Local 6000 in Michigan. He told the AmNews that the middle class is under attack, and he believes only one person can stop that from happening.

Holman wanted the AmNews to know right from the start who his union was endorsing, before he explained the union's plan for 2012.

"We endorse President Barack Obama," Holman told the AmNews over the phone. "We'll be asking our members to get involved in the process and do it the appropriate way after work time."

How will they go about this?

"Internet. Word of mouth. All of the above," said Holman. "All of the appropriate techniques will be used, and we'll take advantage of meetings all over the state. We're hoping for a great turnout."

UAW Local 6000 represents 17,000 state employees. With the pro-private sector attitude of many conservatives, Holman feels that all public institutions are under the gun.

"No one has been brutalized more than the public employee," said Holman. "We've been under constant attack. We've lost 11,000 positions since 2001. We're doing more with less. In 2008, when we had the financial crisis, the demand for state services skyrocketed. I'm confident that the state employees are going to be motivated in November. We are in the eye of the storm.

"We know that President Obama believes in protecting the middle class," stated Holman.