John Edwards picked up the endorsement of the Iowa branch of the local Service Employees International Union (SEIU) at a Monday event at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City. That much was expected, but Edwards also rolled out the endorsement of SEIU locals in several other states. The national union did not endorse because Edwards did not reach a 60% threshold required by union rules.
I liveblogged this over at Iowa Independent, here it is again:
4:53 and with a little assist I'm live at the UIowa's Eckstein Medical Research Lab for the Iowa SEIU endorsement of John Edwards.
Johnson County Supervisor Terrence Neuzil is one of Edwards' county co-chairs. "It's huge, particularly for Johnson County," he says of the endorsement. "It's kind of the time people are just starting to see who's most electable, and having an organization like SEIU on board will provide us with not only the tools -- the phonebanks, the robocalls -- it's the people power and it's politically experienced people who know what they're doing."
An hour before start time, some of those purple shirted people from SEIU's Iowans for Health Care effort were prepping the place, carefully positioning EDWARDS signs and directional arrows across the maze of buildings thank make up the UI hospital campus.
The Obama camp did its best to blunt this endorsement, rolling out the endorsements of Illinois and Indiana SEIU this afternoon. By union rules, Illinois SEIU people cant come into Iowa to campaign for Obama against Iowa SEIU's endorsed candidate Edwrads. yesterday at a Democratic party caucus training, a couple experienced union hands were unsure how that would work.
We've already heard the ubiquitous Mellencamp and U2, and now we incongruously get Carly Simon singing "Loving You's The Right Thing To Do." A sound guy doing a mic check shouts "kill the music." Behind me, a woman discusses another candidate: "And I said to him, 'you CAN'T be for Hillary, she's not ELECTABLE.'"
5:12. SEIU's Sarah Swisher literally embraces a beaming Tom Carsner, another of the leading local Edwards supporters. Also on the scene is State Rep. Art Staed of Cedar Rapids. "John Edwards is an honest fellow who has his heart set on the right things. He's sincerely more interested in the common people than in multinational corporations."
Professor David Redlawsk says the endorsement helps Edwards immensely in Johnson County, "though there's also a sizable Obama contingent." We exchange grumblings about a New York Times article than noted that Iowans, particularly those at the Johnson County Dems barbecue, don't read blogs. "Our research shows 22 to 23% of caucus goers read blogs, which was higher than I expected," he said. "It's still kind of a niche, but... the people who MATTER are reading blogs," he adds, trying to make me feel better. He's more surprised that only 5% of Iowas have donated to a campaign online.
5:25 and movement is difficult in this oblong atrium area. Some of the guys in purple are hanging the puple and gold banner, I feel like I'm at a Minnesota Vikings game. (Which if you know me is painful for this Wisconsin native who bleeds green and gold) U-biquitous2 playing again, though as we are in a hospital it's not the usual bonecrushing rally levels. The efficient Mark McCullogh of the Edwards staff informs us of the entrance direction and press avail after the speech. A couple nurses in scrubs, but by and large the hot fashion statement is SEIU purple.
I have to say I've never heard heard "Isn't She Lovely" by Stevie Wonder at a rally before. The vehicles are pulling up... the efficient Mark McCullough distributes remarks.
5:45 and the show starts with SEIU 199 president Cathy Glasson. Notes membership of 2000 at UIHC. "Our nation has a weak thready pulse" on health care -- Code Blue, says the nurse. "Health care is the bread and butter issue Iowans are discussing."
"John Edwards has made the fight for working families his own fight" while "Others tended to be more cautious and politically calculated."
Washington/Oregon SEIU head brings their endorsement -- there's other states too but the applause drowns out the list. Minnesota, too. Ohio, WV, and Michigan, with 124,000 members. This list of states is reminding me of Howard Dean - YEAH! And then we're going to California - 656,000 members. Almost seems like Illinois was the big holdout that may have blocked the national endorsement?
With that Edwards walks in, grinning ear to ear, to the tune of Springsteen and "The Promised Land." Local member Margie Caruth reads the intro.
150 to 200 in the room, counting us press types.
Edwards takes the mic at 5:58, perfectly timed for Live at 6.
"These are men and women who have stood up and stood out for working people." He sums up the endorsing states as "almost a million" members.
"I've been in the trenches with them, and their cause is my cause." "Working men and women providing health care should have health care themselves."
"Our health care system does not work, and no one understands that better than the men and women behind me -- they work in it every day." He repeats the call to cancel Congressional health care if Congress won't pass it for him. That always goes over well in a crowd like this.
He outlines the plan.
Mandate universal coverage by law. No preexisting conditions, mental health parity. "No more job lock in America - take your health care withyou wherever you go."
"No more collective bargaining sessions about health care, we'll get that off the table."
"Get rid of George Bush's tax cuts" to pay for it.
Decent working conditions for health care providers. "We have a nursing crisis in America." Abolish mandatory OT for nurses, ergonomic standards, patient-staff ratios... (This is stuff he hasn't said as much on the trail.)
To grow the middle class, we must grow the labor movement. (Lots of the speech is getting applause drowned.) Several other well-worn labor lines: "if you can join the Republican party by signing a card," etc.
SCHIP Bush veto: "He's on the side of insurance companies, drug countries, and their lobbyists."
Concluding with the "I run for president on behalf of" cadence. "on behalf of the men and women who take care of our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers and children every day." All of 10 minutes of speech and now we have the Foo Fighters.
6:20 and we had a four or five question media avail scrum style. A local TV person tries to get him to get a bar for the caucuses -- "how well do you need to finish?" Edwards doesn't bite. He alludes to differences with other candidates on health care without naming anyone. "We can't get universal health care without fighting against powerful entrenched interests." SEIU endorsement means people who know how to organize in "a very aggressive way."
"This is not a top down endorsement," he says. "These members know me, I've been working with them in the trenches for years." Dismisses the lack of a national endorsement and again touts the "nearly a million members."
"They did a great job of holding the details," said David Redlawsk of the endorsements from other states that were rolled out. As for the lack of a national endorsement, "it was the favorite sons and daughters" (specifically Obama and Clinton) "that kept it from the 60 percent" that SEIU needed for a national endorsement.
As of 6:32 the brothers and sisters of SEIU are gone (there was something about a barbecue at Coralville headquarters), the music is over and the press corps is largely packed.