I just came back from the Labor Day Breakfast filled with politicians and labor unions. The usual suspects were there, the M & M team of Menino and Maura, Connolly, Flynn, Yoon, White, Murphy, Flaherty, O'Malley, Arroyo, and me. The audience was 90 percent or so white, and the 12 speakers at the head table were made up of 11 whites and one black woman. They were being served, however, by a black waiter.
One union group we talked to who had reserved two tables at the event (all white) were nice enough to share with us some of their thoughts and advice. One gentleman told us how he didn't want to buy any oil from any of the "diaper heads".
It was also nice to see Sam Yoon and Matt O'Malley proudly preening with their "Labor for Menino" buttons. I am sure that that they will be strong, independent voices on the council, not afraid to disagree with the Mayor. I'm wondering if they've told the mayor that they think it is wrong of him to refuse to even sit down with police and fire unions for two years while they tried to get a contract worked out. I'm wondering if O'Malley is going to keep that button to wear it when he meets with the Police Union that endorsed him??? If you do believe they will be independent voices, please email me at email@example.com because I've got some ocean front property in Arizona I want to sell you.
Matt was particularly interesting to watch as the breakfast let out. He was in a receiving line that the Mayor was walking down. When Matt saw the Mayor was coming he looked down, checked that his Mayor's button was properly arranged, puffed out his chest, pulled in his stomach and waited patiently. (it reminded me of the scene from Animal House...."Is that a pledge pin on your uniform????!!!!) Sure enough, the Mayor stopped to shake Matt's hand, and his eyes went straight down to Mayor Menino pin. So, the Mayor knows he has Matt's support.
Congressman Capuano gave an excellent speech about the labor movement. Especially about how many democrats talk the talk, but only throw scraps here and there to the unions.
One union organizer from the electrical workers in Lynn told me it was very difficult to organize right now. He was particularly unhappy with Congressman Lynch. Apparently Marion Manor's workers were trying to organize. But Congressman Lynch's wife was on the board of directors and Conressman Lynch came out against the union and the union vote was quashed.
Senator Tolman was very nice with some words of advice.
Attorney General Reilly spoke his usual speech about getting back the governor's office. He said that he was just like the people in the room, living paycheck to paycheck. I introduced myself in the hall and asked him if he really lived paycheck to paycheck and he said that "yes, he did, putting 3 kids through college will do that to you."
Overall the tone was a bit gloomy, especially with the recent disasters facing the nation. The labor movement has been hard hit and they need to right the ship. It is good for america, and especially for building a middle class.
Another thing I learned: I need to get over my occasional shyness that I have in speaking to people in groups. Sometimes I have a hard time going up to a group sitting and eating, even though I know they expect it. It seems a bit impolite to me. But, it is something that successful politicians do. Felix Arroyo thanked me for blogging about how the Mayor failed to invite him to announcement about bio-diesel, which was Felix's idea.
I am philosophically pro-union. But I find it difficult to interact with groups which do not reflect the society in which they live. Boston is 50 percent or so minority and I don't see the unions doing a strong job trying to bring these people under their wings and teach them about the power of collective bargaining. If elected I hope to work with all the unions, to treat them with respect, meet with them, and address how we can work together to strengthen the middle class for all Bostonians.