Unions work Fla. on behalf of Dems


Published: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 11:58 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 24, 2008 at 11:58 a.m.

WASHINGTON Hillary Rodham Clinton's union supporters are working hard for her in Florida, although the New York senator can't come into the state herself because of the state's defiance of Democratic Party primary rules.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees is mailing its 110,000 members in Florida as well as its retirees urging them to vote for Clinton. In addition, the Florida Education Association, the statewide teachers union, is working its 250,000 members for Clinton as well.

This effort is ongoing despite a national Democratic ban on candidates campaigning in Florida for its Jan. 29 primary. Clinton, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards have not appeared in the state since August and aren't advertising there.

The national party stripped the state of its convention delegates and told candidates not to appear in the state after Florida Democrats decided to hold the primary earlier than party rules allow.

But unions are not bound by Democratic Party rules.

Both unions were already ramping up their turnout efforts for the Jan. 29 vote, because Floridians will vote on that day on a constitutional amendment cutting property taxes.

The proposal is estimated to cut local property taxes by $12.4 billion over the first five years including $2.7 billion collected for schools.

''Our folks are being told and being encouraged to do everything possible to ensure they come to the polls to vote no on Amendment 1,'' said Alma Gonzalez, special counsel to AFSCME's Council 79. ''Is it a lovely convenience that on the same ballot is the presidential preference? You bet. It's a nice thing.''

Union voters will expect whoever becomes the Democratic nominee to get their delegates seated at the Democratic national convention, Gonzalez said.

''You cannot get to the White House without coming through Florida and winning Florida. Ask Al Gore,'' she said. ''You don't win Florida, you don't make it to the White House. It's that simple. We believe that the presidential candidates understand that and when we get to that convention our delegates will be seated.''

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