Big Labor Says Jump: Will Hillary Ask 'How High?'

Senator Hillary Clinton brought her campaign to Chicago today to speak at a candidate forum sponsored by the AFL-CIO. Big Labor is sizing up the candidates in order to aid them in the decision on who they should endorse among the Democrats for President.

Before her plane even touched down, a controversy erupted over the connection of a Clinton staffer to a public relations firm that takes on anti-union clients:

Labor activists demand that Clinton give the aide, Mark J. Penn, a choice: sever connections to the public relations firm that he heads or leave the campaign. Apart from working as a strategist and pollster for Clinton,

Penn is worldwide president and chief executive of Burson-Marsteller, which has more than 100 offices in 59 countries. The firm's clients include Cintas Corp. of Cincinnati, which manufactures and launders corporate uniforms. With Burson-Marsteller's assistance, Cintas has staved off a push to unionize its workforce, and the public relations firm's website at one point boasted of its work in parrying union pressure.
Penn is pleading for understanding, saying that his own PR work doesn't involve any anti-union activities. But the unions aren't buying it:
"Learning that Mark Penn was CEO of a company that in fact conducts some of its business busting unions was very, very problematic to the AFL-CIO, as well as to many other unions, and we made that clear" to the Clinton campaign, said Karen Ackerman, AFL-CIO political director. "This is an issue that continues."

Teamsters General President James P. Hoffa said in a statement: "We have expressed our concerns to Sen. Clinton about Mark Penn and his firm's work for anti-union companies. We value Sen. Clinton's commitment to strengthen America's middle class. But as long as Mark Penn continues to profit from his company's involvement with anti-union companies, this issue will not go away."
The union boys can't be any clearer in their message to Hillary: Dump Penn or lose our endorsement.

For Hillary, the question is one of practical politics. She may not need the union's endorsement for the primaries. And since union support to whoever the Democratic candidate would be is a given, perhaps she might defy their wishes in this matter.

What is more likely would be some kind of compromise where Penn is "reassigned" to a role outside of the campaign and then quietly brought back once Clinton wraps up the nomination.

Either way, Clinton shows that she's not kowtowing to union pressure which means more to general election voters than those who vote in Democratic primaries.

Hat Tip: Ed Lasky
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