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Kerry advisor advocates labor unions

Paul Spadafora | Thursday, September 30, 2004

On the eve of the first presidential debate, Notre Dame welcomed Marco Trbovich, director of labor policy for the Kerry-Edwards campaign, Wednesday for his lecture on the significance of unions in the 2004 race. The lecture, titled “The Power of Labor in Presidential Politics,” acted as an explanation and analysis of labor union involvement in the upcoming presidential election. Trbovich also focused on the impact the voters in the labor union will have on the Democratic vote in November. Trbovich emphasized that for the election, unions are not to be taken lightly. “The labor union ranks hold over 13 and a half million Americans … unions [could] be the single greatest source of power a candidate has,” Trbovich said. “In many unions, Democratic registration outpaces Republicans by 2-1, sometimes wider than 70 percent to 30 percent.”Trbovich said that because of unions’ size and largely Democratic composition, they are a significant part of the Kerry-Edwards campaign’s support. “The union vote gives Kerry the ability to run neck and neck with a wartime president,” Trbovich said.He also focused on the difficulties inherent in mobilizing and encouraging swing voters in the unions. Trbovich cited the media as one of the principal problems facing voter awareness.”One of the most significant reasons for the reduced power of the union vote is the growing influence of the modern media on culture, and their impact on voter opinion,” Trbovich said. “We no longer just get the facts about the candidate’s statements and positions, as was once the case – [now] we get a ‘feel’ for who they are.””The persona of [a president] carries far more weight than it would in an election for a local public office,” Trbovich continued. “The candidate’ performances, the personas presented in their ads, are what define their appeal.”Another problem the media creates, Trbovich said, is the movement away from the “collective action” that defines unions, and towards individual action. Trbovich said that too much of a focus on individual action would ultimately reduce Democrat effectiveness against their opposition. “How powerful is one individual compared to a multi-billion dollar corporation, able to flood congress with letters and requests?” he said.Trbovich also took the opportunity to show his support for John Kerry.”We are not about to commit our considerable resources to any Democrat who, willy-nilly, abandons his allegiance to our values of social and economic justice,” Trbovich said. “I’ve never doubted [Kerry] as a man, as a leader loyal to the values we share about working people and the importance that unions represent to the strength of America.”In closing, Trbovich encouraged all those in attendance to exercise their ability to vote.”At the end of the day, the campaign really isn’t about Bush or Kerry, is it?” he said. “It’s about us. It’s about you and me. It’s about your children … I hope you vote … and I hope you’ll reach beyond … the image of the media.”Teresa Ghilarducci, director of the Higgins Labor Research Center, felt that the lecture received a positive reaction from those in attendance. “It was probably one of the most enthusiastic responses in a long time.” Ghilarducci said. The lecture was part of the McBride Lecture series, sponsored by the Higgins Labor Research Center. Inaugurated in 1978, the lecture series was established to help improve an understanding of unions and their effects on the economy.