Union: Sweeney no friend of labor
Democratic congressional candidate visits Fort Edward
By MAURY THOMPSON
Published on 1/11/2006
HUDSON FALLS -- When talking about the past, union leaders spoke in round numbers of about 1,250 employees who once worked at local General Electric Co. plants.
Turning to the present, they cited a precise number of 234 employees left at the Fort Edward plant.
'GE led the world from Schenectady. It was founded here and it ran away,' said Roger Delano.
Delano and 12 other workers at the Fort Edward plant stopped by the union hall in Hudson Falls after their shift on Tuesday to meet Democratic congressional candidate Kirsten Gillibrand, who said Congress could help rebuild the nation's manufacturing base by offering incentives to companies that develop vehicles that run on alternative fuel.
'We would be the world leaders in the most important technology that is available today,' she said.
Gillibrand, a lawyer from Hudson, criticized incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. John Sweeney's votes on labor issues.
Sweeney voted in favor of liberalizing trade agreements with the Dominican Republican and five Central American nations, and voted against a bill that would have increased benefits to workers that lose their jobs when plants move out of the country, she said.
Sweeney, she continued, also voted against increasing the federal minimum wage.
Sweeney was tied up in meetings Tuesday afternoon and not available to comment directly, said his spokeswoman, Melissa Carlson.
Carlson said Sweeney has been a 'strong supporter' of protecting prevailing wages, unemployment compensation and pension security for union members.
'Rep. Sweeney is the son of a local shirtcutter union president and (a) former New York state labor commissioner who understands the issues affecting working families,' she said.
Sweeney, a four-term incumbent from Clifton Park, has generally enjoyed support from labor unions in previous campaigns.
In the last election cycle, for example, labor-backed political action committees contributed $50,000 to his campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Gillibrand, however, said Sweeney has fallen out of favor with labor because of his recent votes.
'He may not gain their support this time,' she said in an interview after the meeting at the office of Local 332 of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America.
On other issues, Gillibrand called for tighter restrictions on lobbyists, tax cuts for the middle class and allowing the federal government to compete with private health insurance plans.
Medicare, a federal health plan for the elderly and disabled, has 3 percent overhead costs, compared with 30 percent for private health plans, she said.
Asked by union members about her position on the Iraq War, Gillibrand said Congress should immediately pass a resolution banning permanent U.S. military bases in Iraq.
'I'm not clear why we entered this war. The president has yet to really tell us what his motivation was behind this,' she said. 'One thing I'm quite sure, though, is that America is not an imperialist country. We don't just go into countries to take them over because we want their oil.'
Also on Tuesday, Gillibrand's campaign announced in a press release that it raised $249,035 in the last three months of 2005, bring the total amount raised so far to $370,680.
Sweeney had $712,933 in his campaign fund as of his last public report on Sept. 30, according to the Center for Responsive Politics."
Kirsten Gillibrand, John Sweeney