Romney mum on labor unions as he works for Michigan votes

June 20, 2012

By Jackie Kucinich, USA TODAY

DEWITT, Mich. —Mitt Romney wrapped up his five-day tour of six swing states Tuesday in a state with a heavy union presence but far away from any union power centers and largely silent on the groups that could be a key foe here and in other Rust Belt states in November.

Through photo-ops and roundtables, Romney largely avoided using the tough rhetoric about unions that was common during the Republican presidential primaries. And the bus tour largely avoided union-heavy industrial towns, as Romney seeks to gather votes in the more Republican rural areas.

He won’t come anywhere near Detroit,” predicted Lance Adams, 40, an employee resources coordinator fromChesterfield Township, who attended an event sponsored by the Democratic National Committee to counter Romney’s bus tour.

Nevertheless, a small band of pro-labor protesters followed Romney here and in several other states — at times causing enough ruckus that the candidate, or his wife, Ann, responded to their taunts.

In Michigan, Romney will have more to contend with than protesters and negative ads: The Michigan secretary of State is reviewing a petition to force a November vote on making collective-bargaining rights part of the state’s constitution.

Karla Swift, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO, said ballot initiatives as well as state races will help drive turn-out in a presidential year that already attracts more voters to the polls.

She noted that the stops on the Romney tour here were nowhere near neighborhoods with union households.

“Clearly, he’s dodging,” Swift said.

Romney had little to say about unions during his bus tour, but during the GOP primaries he on several occasions blasted President Obama for putting “union stooges” on the National Labor Relations Board as payback for the help that organized labor provided for his 2008 election.

Union members who attended a news conference Monday in Detroit said Romney’s contempt for unions was particularly galling because of his roots in the Motor City.

“It’s a slap in the face, how he got up and said, ‘Let Detroit go bankrupt,’ ” said Mark Dickow, 49, president of the United Autoworkers Local 140 in Warren, referring to Romney’s 2008 New York Times op-ed piece titled “Let Detroit go bankrupt.”

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