Road Rules: Union Edition
5:59 PM, Aug 31, 2009 • By C.J. CIARAMELLA
Today the AFSCME and AFL-CIO co-hosted a block party to celebrate the end of their "Highway to Health Care" summer tour, in which they sent an RV to 19 cities in 10 states to spread the good news of the Democrats' health care plan.
One of my first impressions of the event in Washington, D.C. was, appropriately enough, a man on a cell phone trying to rustle up more attendees. "We need some more bodies down here," he said, standing on the fringe of the crowd. "Can you holler around the office a little?"
In case workplace coercion was not enough, the unions also provided a wide array of free t-shirts, signs and temporary tattoos. You know, to get that spontaneous, grassroots feel. The unions apparently didn't want their party to look lame in front of the photographers and television cameras milling about, which for some reason included Al Jazeera.
The two main speakers were AFL-CIO president John Sweeney and AFSCME president Gerald McEntee. Both spoke about the "evil insurance companies" (McEntee's words) spreading misinformation and using the "teabaggers" as a front for their machinations.
After talking about such horrors, Sweeney went on to announce, without a trace of irony, "This past month, 18,000 union members attended nearly 400 town hall meetings across the country, [and] this coming Labor Day weekend, we expect tens of thousands of union members to call for health care reform through celebrations across the country."
Ted Kennedy was invoked more times that Jesus at a tent-revival. "We can't let Ted down," said McEntee. "We can't let America down."
But despite the chants of "health care now!" Richard Kirsch, executive director of Health Care for America Now, seemed to rather favor health care sometime in the near future, telling the crowd they "were going to get this done in the next three and a half months at the utmost."
This would usually be the part in the article where I would put in some quotes from the "average citizen," but I couldn't seem to find anyone at the block party who wasn't a member of a union or a Democrat organization -- AFL-CIO, AFSCME, United Steelworkers, Work for America, Young Democrats for America, etc.
In fact, not many people were willing to talk on the record. If one can imagine, being a WEEKLY STANDARD blogger in the midst of a crowd of union members tends to put a damper on the block party, even with the free hamburgers and hot dogs.