Union Workers: Anti-Republican, if Not Necessarily Pro-Democrat

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 14 2010 9:31 AM

Union Workers: Anti-Republican, if Not Necessarily Pro-Democrat

COMMERCE CITY -- At 6 a.m., as workers walked in to Sturgeon Electric, members of the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers stood at the gates passing out two-sided leaflets.

"Vote against 60, 61, 63 and 101," said Mike Hixon. "They're bad for us." Every once in a while, he adds "and vote for Bennet." He sometimes leaves out the name of the Democrats' Senate candidate because he knows which workers are Republicans, "and I don't want to start a fight with them."

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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The last, best hope of Democrats in states like these are the union ground games. The Colorado AFL-CIO has around 300,000 members here, and is aiming to turn out 189,000 voters for the Democrats. Sturgeon Electric is in Rep. Earl Perlmutter's district; everyone who mentions him describes him as a "friend of labor." And starting in July, they say, work picked up. 

"Over the Winter we had 40 men on the books [not working]," said Ed Roehre. "I can't remember the last time we had that many people not working,"

"Nineteen-eighty-one," offers another volunteer."

"Right, 30 years."

But Roehre is not happy about the Democrats. "They've done a horrible job," he says. "I was not a fan of the health care bill, which they didn't even read before they passed it." He was unhappy, too, with how the Democrats seemed to focus more on Wall Street than on people like him. Other union workers I talked to were unhappy with new environmental regulations; their work on wind energy didn't provide as many opportunities as their work on coal energy.

"The green economy hasn't been good for us," said Timio Archuleta.

I asked Roehre if the stimulus package -- which was promoted as a reason to vote for Bennet on the union leaflets -- had helped the economy.

"Bush started the stimulus," he said. Was he conflating the stimulus and the Wall Street bailout. "Oh, I guess I am. It's all the same to me. It's a giveaway."

If it sounds like I'm describing a Republican voter, I'm not. Roehre planned to vote for Bennet and for Perlmutter, because he worried about Republicans passing a national right to work bill. "I've never seen a Republican [candidate] who cared about us," said Roehre. "I'm voting for who's going to help me put food on the table."

Roehre planned to split his ballot, however, and vote for Tom Tancredo for governor. "[Democratic candidate John] Hickenlooper's too pro-illegal," he said.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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