Teamsters now split on NC Democratic Senate race

Teamsters now split on NC Democratic Senate race

Cal Cunningham, Ken Lewis, Elaine Marshall

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by MIKE BAKER / Associated Press

WCNC.com

Posted on April 19, 2010 at 11:08 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 19 at 11:09 AM

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- The Charlotte branch of the Teamsters union broke with its leadership Monday on a U.S. Senate endorsement, saying a candidate went back on his commitment to a pro-labor proposal.

Teamsters Local 71 said it is endorsing Secretary of State Elaine Marshall for the May 4 Democratic primary. The local president, Ted Russell, said his members were concerned after candidate Cal Cunningham's comments in an interview with The Associated Press that he would not pursue a so-called "card check" plan to make it easier for unions to organize.

Russell said he believed Cunningham, who won the endorsement of Teamsters leadership, recanted on a commitment to the idea.

"We don't need that," said Russell, whose unit has about 3,800 members. "We see enough of that already."


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Unions have long pushed to allow card check, fearing that businesses can abuse secret ballot elections and tilt the scales against workers. Card check would allow workers to form a union by signing cards as an alternative to an election.

Asked in an AP interview whether he would support that, Cunningham said: "I support elections. I think that what we're about to see emerge from the Senate, if anything, protects elections as the sole way for there to be unions created. That's something that I would support."

Pressed on whether he would push to allow card check, Cunningham responded: "No, no, not the card check."

Later asked to clarify, Cunningham said he supports a compromise idea that would allow workers to use card check as a way to trigger an immediate secret-ballot election -- similar to what is allowed today. He said the idea of using card check as an alternative to elections is likely not going to pass in the U.S. Senate. But he said he would look at the issue if it came up.

"I would be open to hearing the arguments again," Cunningham said.

A spokeswoman for Cunningham did not immediately return a call seeking comment Monday.

Rob Black, a spokesman for Teamsters leadership, has said Cunningham "overtly" expressed support for the principle of card check during a discussion with union officials. He has said the union endorsed Cunningham in part because of his position on card check and that the group remained comfortable with its endorsement despite Cunningham's comments to the AP.

Black did not return a call Monday. The group has 13,000 members in the state.

Marshall and attorney Ken Lewis both said in interviews they would support card check. Cunningham's comments, meanwhile, made Russell uneasy.

"We thought we had a commitment from him at one time," Russell said. "With Elaine Marshall, we've got a commitment. We're comfortable with what we've seen with Elaine."

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