Monday, February 06, 2006

Take Me To The River

This letter appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer last Friday (PA local politics...).

I am president of Cement Masons and Plasterers Union Local 592, which was described as one of the "dissident unions" that voted for Sen. Rick Santorum ("Santorum siphons off some unions," Jan. 26). Being on the "dissident" side of the AFL-CIO is not bad at all, especially in the political arena.

My local endorsed Ed Rendell over the AFL-CIO's candidate, Bob Casey, in the governor's primary when Casey was ahead. Casey lost, and organized labor (except the building trades) had more egg on its face than a casino buffet.

Santorum's not perfect, but the man will say what he feels and not back down.

He told me that he would never vote against the Prevailing Wage Law, the union construction workers' lifeblood. I believe him. He is trying to get the Delaware River dredged, which would produce good-paying jobs.

As far as good-paying jobs go, when will the Democrats in Congress stop boasting "I voted to raise the minimum wage" and start strengthening and making new laws on collective bargaining? When will they put into trade agreements the right for our unions to organize in countries like Mexico without interference from those countries?

I am elected by members of Local 592. They trust me to do what is best for them.

My endorsement of Santorum is the right choice.

Mike Fera
Let me say at the outset that I can recall hearing Clinton speak about NAFTA a year or so ago, and he said that the right of workers to organize and negotiate wages through collective bargaining was included in the original agreement, but it was stripped out by the Republican congress before NAFTA was signed into law, which is completely believable to me. Also, as noted in the article from this link, Clinton opposed efforts to exclude the formation of a WTO "working group" on labor rights (the article is ten years old…I’ll keep looking for any updates), so, despite his business-friendly tendencies as president (which were necessary), I think Clinton did what he could, even though I was snookered in on NAFTA also years ago by him and others, and I’ll never make that mistake again.

However, I wanted to mention Mr. Fera’s letter because he touched on an important issue in this area, and that is the proposed dredging of the Delaware River from 40 feet to 45 feet. It sounds like this has been studied to death, though I don’t know if an Environmental Impact Statement on the project has ever been completed (though there’s a lot of information related to that here).

I don’t like messing with the environment either, but I’m prone to think we should be weighing the cost/benefit on this. Rendell is solidly for the project, of course, and I hope he’s bringing Jon Corzine around also. Based on this article, I think Jeffrey Nash of the DRPA and Rob Andrews are clueless.

Another factor to consider is that Delaware also needs to sign off on this, and to my knowledge, they have not done so or agreed to shoulder any part of the cost of the dredging.

I’m concerned about this partly because I can easily see Santorum and the Repugs turning this into a wedge issue as the PA Senate campaign progresses. Anyone who has to rely on the “good graces” of somebody like Santorum, as Mr. Fera does, truly has my sympathies. However, Mr. Fera is not some garden-variety wingnut spouting typical “die, liberals, die!” nonsense. He has to look out for the members of his local, and though Bob Casey (who FINALLY has a website, and it’s not too bad, actually) is on record against CAFTA and probably would support dredging, I haven’t been able to find any statement from him yet on this.

The problem is that I can see Santorum and the Repugs hammering on this issue if it isn’t resolved soon, because all of the players involved are Democrats. I am quite sure that Ed Rendell is making that eminently clear to Jon Corzine, and probably to Governor Minner of Delaware also.

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