This Day On The Street
Continue to site right-arrow
ADVERTISEMENT
This account is pending registration confirmation. Please click on the link within the confirmation email previously sent you to complete registration.
Need a new registration confirmation email? Click here
Stocks Under $10 with 50-100% upside potential - 14 days FREE!

Obama's Labor Problem: Charlotte Union Chief Shuns Democratic Convention

Stocks in this article: BA LCC LUV UAL

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- ( TheStreet) -- Bill Wise is an influential labor leader in the Carolinas, president of a Charlotte local that represents 2,000 US Airways (LCC) workers, and a committed Barack Obama voter in the coming presidential election.

Yet Wise wants nothing at all to do with the Democratic National Convention that begins Sept. 3 in Charlotte.

In fact, Wise is so committed to avoiding the convention that he has not returned recent calls from two Democratic National Committee members. "I don't have anything to do with that," he says. "I have a prior commitment and I'm not going to go through a sales pitch in the eleventh hour."

During the convention, Wise plans to attend a meeting of the South Carolina AFL-CIO in Georgetown, S.C. He is vice president of the organization: IAM Local 1725, which he heads, represents Southwest (LUV) workers in Charleston and Greenville-Spartanburg, S.C, as well as US Airways and United Continental (UAL) workers in Charlotte.

Without reading too much into Wise's position -- he is outspoken and strongly independent -- it is hard to avoid the conclusion, after speaking with him, that Obama has a labor problem. At the very least, Obama has a problem with the 700,000-member International Association of Machinists, a visible, activist union that dominates the aerospace and airline sectors. IAM President Tom Buffenbarger says that he too will stay away from the convention, where the union's participation will be at an historic low.

A big part of the problem, Wise says, is that Democratic party "has not supported the working man like it said it was going to do, even when it had control of the House and Senate." He notes that in February, Obama signed the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization act even after Republicans inserted language, unrelated to the substance of the bill, making it more difficult for airline and railroad workers to form unions.

Still, Wise backs Obama. "I don't think any president who took over from George Bush would be any further along than Barack Obama is now," he says.

As a labor leader in the Carolinas, Wise is a rare breed. North Carolina is the least unionized state, with 2.9% union membership, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. South Carolina, where Wise lives, is the second least unionized state with 3.4% union membership. Says Buffenbarger, "I would rank Bill Wise at the top of the list of guys who don't back down from a challenge."

Says Wise: "The education level when it comes to unions is not where it should be in these two states, (but) North Carolina is not as blatant and in your face about labor unions as South Carolina is." He recalled that South Carolina politicians, including Gov. Nikki Haley, demonized the labor movement during a 2011 dispute over a finding by the National Labor Relations Board's general counsel that Boeing (BAC) violated labor law when it moved work on the 787 to North Charleston, S.C. in retaliation for an IAM strike. Labor law protects the right to strike.

Boeing addressed this problem not through the contentious solution pushed by South Carolina politicians, who essentially sought to dismantle decades-old labor laws, but rather through the more productive course of negotiations with the IAM. This led to a landmark 2011 contract agreement.

Formally, the IAM, whose membership is 65% Democratic and 35% Republican, backs Obama. But "our polling shows that members are upset with both parties," Buffenbarger says. "They are not thrilled with Romney, and our Democratic constituency is not happy with the current administration. It is not that they are angry at President Obama, but they are pissed off at Congress, and the president gets sucked into this."

Frequently, IAM members are delegates to the Democratic convention. Since the 1948 convention, the union has averaged about 100 delegates at each Democratic convention. This year, it will have four. "Unlike in 2008, there is a lack of interest this year," Buffenbarger says.

A second factor in the IAM's coolness towards Obama is that within the labor movement, the IAM was perhaps the strongest backer of Hillary Clinton for president in the 2008 Democratic primaries.

"We happened to be the most outspoken and the last to leave the (Clinton) campaign," Buffenbarger says. "I'm not the only one who backed Hillary who continues to feel a backlash from the administration. Most of the unions who were with us also receive very little acknowledgment."

If Clinton were to run for president in 2016, Buffenbarger adds, "We would certainly be interested. She's her own person, but she was an effective voice for us as senator from New York, even on trade deals, and we are a loyal bunch of folks."

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/tedreednc.

Select the service that is right for you!

COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Action Alerts PLUS
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.

Product Features:
  • $2.5+ million portfolio
  • Large-cap and dividend focus
  • Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
  • Weekly roundups
TheStreet Quant Ratings
Try it NOW
Only $49.95/yr

Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.

Product Features:
  • Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
  • Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
  • A custom stock screener
  • Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Stocks Under $10
Try it NOW

David Peltier, uncovers low dollar stocks with extraordinary upside potential that are flying under Wall Street's radar.

Product Features:
  • Model portfolio
  • Stocks trading below $10
  • Intraday trade alerts
  • Weekly roundups
Dividend Stock Advisor
Try it NOW

Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.

Product Features:
  • Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
  • Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
  • Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
Real Money Pro
Try it NOW

All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.

Product Features:
  • Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
  • Intraday commentary & news
  • Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Options Profits
Try it NOW

Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.

Product Features:
  • 100+ monthly options trading ideas
  • Actionable options commentary & news
  • Real-time trading community
  • Options TV
To begin commenting right away, you can log in below using your Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, OpenID or Yahoo login credentials. Alternatively, you can post a comment as a "guest" just by entering an email address. Your use of the commenting tool is subject to multiple terms of service/use and privacy policies - see here for more details.
Submit an article to us!

Markets

DOW 18,030.21 +6.04 0.03%
S&P 500 2,081.88 -0.29 -0.01%
NASDAQ 4,773.4720 +8.0480 0.17%

Brokerage Partners

Rates from Bankrate.com

  • Mortgage
  • Credit Cards
  • Auto

Free Newsletters from TheStreet

My Subscriptions:

After the Bell

Before the Bell

Booyah! Newsletter

Midday Bell

TheStreet Top 10 Stories

Winners & Losers

Register for Newsletters
Top Rated Stocks Top Rated Funds Top Rated ETFs