Ohio locals rally for Obama

Sen. Barack Obama takes part in a town hall-style meeting at the Lorain, Ohio, National Gypsum plant, where Local D416 members are employed.

Candidate visits National Gypsum plant

IN THE RUN-UP to the Ohio Democratic primary March 4, Boilermaker locals launched a coordinated effort to support Sen. Barack Obama in his hotly-contested race for the presidency.

Local 85 (Toledo), Local 105 (Chillicothe), and Local 744 (Cleveland) held union hall rallies, inviting members to learn more about the candidate. Boilermakers also attended a rally at the Cleveland Convention Center, and they advertised their support at various sites with helium blimps, Obama signs, and bright yellow T-shirts. Local D416 (Lorain) members saw Obama up close when he visited the National Gypsum Co. plant where they work.

The intense activity of these locals followed on the heels of the International Executive Council’s Feb. 20 announcement that it is endorsing Obama for president. (See related story on page 5.)

Local 85 BM-ST Fred Keith Jr., accompanied by retiree Glen Gruetter, volunteered to drive the Boilermaker bus, emblazoned with pro-Obama signage, from city to city to support Boilermaker activities. “We got to shake hands with Senator Obama and ask him questions,” Keith said. “After talking with him, I think his heart is with working-class people. Never in my 30 years as a Boilermaker have I seen anybody put on a primary like this. People just gravitate to this guy.”

Local 105 Pres. Wyndham Sparling said representatives of Obama’s campaign traveled to his lodge, where about 45 members assembled to hear the formal endorsement message and ask questions about Obama’s positions. “It went really well,” he said, “despite the bad weather.”

Local 744 BM-ST Patrick Gallagher said, “I was a Hillary supporter until I heard about the IEC’s endorsement. Now I’m on board with Obama.” Gallagher said about 90 members and some guests attended the Local 744 rally. “I was surprised at the cross-section of people that came out to support him.”

About 50 members of Local D416 joined in welcoming Obama Feb. 24 to the National Gypsum Co. plant in Lorain, Ohio, where they manufacture wallboard. An estimated 120 plant employees and guests attended a town hall-style meeting at the facility. Obama toured the plant before delivering a brief speech and answering questions. Speaking in an unheated warehouse amidst mountainous stacks of wallboard and a thicket of reporters, Obama focused on trade and health care issues.

“Barack Obama has shown the energy and vision to unite Americans, jumpstart our economy, and put working people first again.”
— IP Newton B. Jones

“One million jobs have been lost because of NAFTA, including nearly 50,000 jobs here in Ohio,” he said. Obama stressed his support of the Patriot Employer Act that he said would “end tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas and give those tax breaks to companies that create good jobs with decent wages here in America.

“If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that we can’t stop globalization in its tracks, and some of these jobs are not going to be coming back,” he said. “But what I refuse to accept is that we have to stand idly by while workers watch their jobs get shipped overseas.”

Shannon Brett, Assistant to the Director of Government Affairs, said Obama’s message appears to resonate with many Ohioans because it emphasizes the plight of manufacturing workers in the United States. Ohio has been hit especially hard by job losses and the recent economic downturn. In 2005, Ford Motor Co. closed its Lorain plant, which had employed more than 1,700 workers.

IP Newton B. Jones praised Obama for his support of American workers. “Barack Obama has shown the energy and vision to unite Americans, jumpstart our economy, and put working people first again,” he said. “Our members are grateful for his efforts in opposing unfair trade deals and his proposal to reward employers who retain and create good jobs here at home. That’s the kind of leadership we need right now.”

Paid for by the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers Campaign Assistance Fund, [phone: (703) 560-1493] and is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

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