June 29, 2004

KERRY CROSSES A PICKET LINE? Northwestern Univ. Law Professor James Lindgren sends this email:

As the New York Times reported yesterday, John Kerry refused to cross a picket line on Monday in Boston to speak to the National Conference of Mayors. He was quoted as saying on Sunday night: “‘I don’t cross picket lines,’ he said. ‘I never have.’”

Yet this morning (Tuesday) in Chicago Kerry spoke at the annual meeting of Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow-PUSH Coalition, which was being very actively picketed by a labor group, Voices of Morality (VOM). VOM is leading a labor discrimination protest against Daimler-Chrysler (the signs that the picketers were holding looked very much like ones in pictures on the VOM website). Jackson and the PUSH conference were being targeted because, according to a local Chicago ABC TV news report, Jackson has ties to Daimler-Chrysler. The reporter referred to the PUSH coalition conference as one on “labor,” but neither the official text of the Kerry speech nor the PUSH website lists that as the topic of the conference, though of course PUSH is best known nationally for its labor activities–picketing corporations and negotiating financial deals with them.

I just watched the 11:30am ABC-Channel 7 (Chicago) coverage of Kerry’s speech and the protest. The pickets were obvious and clear and were mentioned more than once in the report, but there was no specific mention in the report how Kerry entered the hotel where the conference was being held, whether pickets were present when he entered the hotel, or whether he or his staff knew of the labor picketing going on.

I hope that the NY Times and the rest of the press following Kerry will sort out the facts of this tantalizing story. Perhaps they might determine whether:

1. Kerry changed his mind since Sunday night and now does cross picket lines if the stakes are high enough (which would let mayors understand where they rate).

OR

2. Kerry always believed in crossing some picket lines (treating some sorts of labor picketing as different from others, a defensible position but one that would be inconsistent with his Sunday statement that he doesn’t cross picket lines).

OR

3. Neither Kerry nor his staff was aware of the labor protest and picketing (either because it appeared after they arrived at the hotel or some other reason), in which case Kerry should answer whether he made an understandable and regrettable mistake in appearing at a conference being picketed over labor issues.

LINKS:

Kerry speaking at PUSH:
Link 1
Link 2

PUSH website:
Link

VOM website:
Link

I hope someone in Chicago will look into this. It sounds like news.

UPDATE: Nothing in this story about the picket line, but it was a panderthon!

ANOTHER UPDATE: More questions. Greg Sanders emails about Boston:

Just a question, but what happens when the Democrats hold their Convention in Boston if the picket line is still there? Does Kerry cross it then and not support the labor side of the dispute? Do they move the convention so he does not have to cross a picket line? Do they (Democrats) convince the strikers to come to a temp agreement till the convention is over so that he does not have to cross a picket line? Or they (Democrats) just do not recognize it as a picket line but view them as a show of support from labor and well wishers at the convention (anyone can believe what they want)? Just thought I would ask.

Thanks to the miracle of the Internet, I may have an answer via this email from reader Gerald Dearing:

For what it’s worth: Spent Monday in Boston. The buzz on the radio was that quite a few in the party were miffed that Kerry had “stiffed” the mayors. This was accompanied by speculation that there was a deal in place where the union would agree not to picket the Dem’s Convention if Kerry supported their stand now. No links, no proof. But it’s an interesting point: will Kerry refuse to cross a picket line if it means he fails to accept his own nomination?

Last I heard from Gerald he was stranded in Missoula with a blown supercharger, so I’m glad to get a report from Boston. This sounds interesting, anyway. And finally, reader Dave Farrell thinks he’s got the formula figured out:

I guess even John Kerry would find it difficult to straddle a picket line, although this is a stout effort. I think it works like scissors, paper, rock: picket line beats mayors, Jesse Jackson (“rainbow vote”) trumps picket line. Alas, how shameless politics is.

Indeed!