Thursday, August 11, 2005

Former Supporters Picket Bean’s Office

Daily Herald
By Joseph Ryan

A few dozen union activists picketed Democratic U.S. Rep. Melissa Bean’s Schaumburg office Wednesday over her recent vote for a trade pact with Central American countries.

The union members stood under a large American flag in the office complex parking lot near Woodfield Shopping Center as they waved signs, one of which read “Bean: How do you spell sell-out?”

The picketing follows political threats from union leaders that Bean’s support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, or CAFTA, on July 28 may lead to a union-backed challenger in the 2006 Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District.

CAFTA was backed by Republicans and opposed by union leaders, who say it will cause an exodus of jobs to low-wage countries. Bean was one of 15 Democrats to cross party lines and vote for CAFTA. The measure passed the U.S. House by only two votes. The president has signed it.

Union money and volunteers helped Bean unseat 35-year veteran Congressman Phil Crane, a Republican champion of trade pacts, in 2004. However, the district is also loaded with big businesses and farms that could benefit from the trade deal.

“It’s the right thing for the district … it’s going to create broader market access and economic opportunity,” Bean said Wednesday.

Union leaders aren’t buying that argument. They are also picketing other Democrats across the country who supported the measure. The United Steelworkers of America and a union representing textile plant workers headed the Bean picket in Schaumburg Wednesday.

“This is a wakeup call to Melissa Bean,” said Jeff Weiss, spokesman for the Chicago Federation of Labor, a local umbrella group for several large unions. “She can’t ignore working families.”

Weiss acknowledged some union leaders have threatened to support a Democratic challenger to Bean. But some area Democratic leaders see that move as unwise. Bean did win the traditionally Republican district from Crane, in part because she portrayed herself as a moderate.

“People have to realize that she has to do moves for her district, too. And she believes CAFTA will help people,” said Rocco Terranova, Schaumburg Township’s Democratic committeeman.

Terranova, a business agent for a sheet metal workers union, stressed that he opposes CAFTA. But he said a Democratic primary battle would hand the seat back to Republicans.

Investment banker David McSweeney and Mundelein businesswoman Teresa Bartels have said they will run as Republicans for Bean’s seat in 2006.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Bean Bounced From Labor Fete

Labor irked: CAFTA vote costs her an invite

The News Sun
By Ralph Zahorik

GURNEE — An invitation by labor unions in Lake and McHenry counties to honor freshman Democratic Congresswoman Melissa Bean as a friend of labor next month has been withdrawn because of her vote for the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

CAFTA, strongly opposed by organized labor, passed the U.S. House in a close 217-215 vote last week. Bean was the only Illinois Democrat voting for the trade pact.

"CAFTA is bad for American workers and we had thought Congresswoman Bean would look out for the interests of working families," said Lee Schillinger of Round Lake Beach, a school teacher and president of the Gurnee-based Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, a central labor body with delegates from area union locals that represent about 20,000 workers.

"The entire labor movement is upset with Bean's vote on CAFTA," said Matthew LaPierre of Mundelein, a federation board member and representative of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees. "Defeat of this onerous legislation was a top priority of the labor movement ... We are deeply disappointed."

Organized labor supported Bean with manpower and $235,000 last year in her upset victory over Republican Congressman Phillip Crane in the Eighth Congressional District. Crane was viewed by organized labor as one of the labor movement's worst enemies.

Bean was to be honored as labor's "Person of the Year" at the federation's annual $100-a-plate fundraiser Sept. 25 at Midlane Resort in Waukegan. The fundraiser is still going ahead, but an alternative program is being planned, Schillinger said.

Although she won't be the guest honoree, Bean is still welcome to attend if she buys a ticket, he said.

"That's their right to do," said Bean. "It's an emotional issue with a lot of people."

"The federation has a right to present their award to whoever they choose, and they certainly feel strongly about CAFTA," said Brian Herman, a spokesman for the Barrington Democrat." The congresswoman values their perspective and carefully considered their point of view before supporting the agreement.

"She understands that some people may be disappointed, but the bottom line is that she has an obligation to vote in her constituents' best interests," Herman added. "In that regard, CAFTA is about market expansion and local job growth; and, on balance, families in her district will benefit from its passage."

"Organized labor was a key ingredient in your upset election over Phil Crane," the federation's executive board wrote Bean. "While labor never expected a 100 percent voting record after 30 years of 0 percent by Phil Crane, we did believe you shared and understood the interests of working families. Apparently you do not."

In their disinvitation, the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor, said previous Bean votes for eliminating the estate tax, extending "onerous provisions" of the Patriot Act" and for a bill "making it harder for working people to seek bankruptcy protection" also "were votes against the interests of working families."

Thea Lee, policy director at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington, D.C., said organized labor hasn't decided what it would do about lawmakers who voted for CAFTA.

"Certainly, it's appropriate for a labor federation to take into account all votes," she said of the Northeastern Illinois Federation of Labor's action against Bean. "We support what they're doing on the local level, but we haven't made our decision."

Margaret Blackshere, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, had no comment, said a spokeswoman, Beth Spencer.

Mike Stokke, deputy chief of staff to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, who is working to unseat Bean, had praise for the Barrington area congresswoman after her CAFTA vote.

"I think the real issue for people in Illinois is what are you doing to help the economy and bring jobs to that state, and she could certainly argue on CAFTA that she's done some things that help. I think the vote is smart vote for the district."

A top labor leader this week warned Bean will "pay a serious price" for voting for CAFTA.

"Almost all the unions in this particular area supported her both with mobilization — knocking on doors — and with money, and up comes what is a true test in terms of a vote, and she can't stand with us?" said Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union in the AFL-CIO.

"She'll certainly feel an effect in terms of contributions and resources," McEntee said. "She'll pay a serious price with the workers in her area."

Illinois AFL-CIO President Margaret Blackshere said last week that one local labor leader told her he was considering looking for a candidate to challenge Bean in the Democratic primary in the 8th Congressional District.

"They are angry. They feel betrayed," Blackshere said. "It will be difficult for her to get support in the future."

Two Republicans have announced they will seek the GOP nomination for Congress in Bean's district.

As the AFL-CIO's convention adjourned at Navy Pier, national President John Sweeney said he was "really angry" at Bean and the other Democratic defectors. But he said local union leaders will decide whether to support Bean's re-election.

CAFTA eliminates tariffs and other trade barriers between the United States and Costa Rica, the Dominican Republican, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Union officials argue it will cost U.S. jobs, allow foreign employers to exploit workers and fail to protect the environment.

Bean said she voted for CAFTA, even though it "is not perfect," because it will eliminate foreign taxes paid by Baxter Healthcare, Abbott Laboratories, Boeing, Motorola and other companies in or near her district, allowing them to broaden their markets and create jobs.

"My primary responsibility is to support the interests of my constituents," she said. "On balance, they will benefit from CAFTA."

Business leaders hailed her vote and said it could bring her more corporate support.

"It was a courageous vote on her part," said Douglas Whitley, president and chief executive officer of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Sharing What It's Like To Be A Military Family

'Barking dogs take on whole new meaning'

Frank Abderholden
The News Sun

Everytime the three dogs bark at some movement outside his Lindenhurst home, Bill Scheurer takes a deep breath.

"The barking takes on a whole new meaning. We shudder to look out the window because we don't know if we are going to see THAT car there," he said.

That car would be the one carrying military officials coming to inform Scheurer something terrible has happened to his son Daniel, 27, who is with the Army National Guard stationed in Baghdad.

Scheurer is a member of Military Families Speak Out, which has an offshoot called the Gold Star Families for Peace. That group was cofounded by Cindy Sheehan, the angry mother of a dead soldier that has been camping outside President Bush's Texas ranch until he meets with her.

Wednesday night there were vigils held in Deerfield, Highland Park and Island Lake to support Sheehan, mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan who was killed in Iraq last year.

Scheurer runs and publishes the online Peace Majority Report. The latest story on the Web site says, "Cindy Sheehan's demand for answers has immense power in a country lied to about (the) war."

He said he has met Sheehan and others in the Gold Star Families for Peace, a group of families who have lost a family member in the war in Iraq.

"I know these people. You almost don't want to look them in the eye because you don't want to think about becoming one of them," he said.

The Gold Star reference comes from a group of 25 women who mourning the loss of their sons in World War I decided to meet in Washington, D.C., on July 4, 1928, to make plans for the formation of the American Gold Star Mothers Inc.

The group would be open to any mother whose son or daughter died during active duty with the military. The group's symbol, the gold star, came into use during World War I when families of service members began displaying service flags emblazoned with a dark blue star for each living member in the military.

When a service member died or was killed during active duty, the blue stars were replaced with gold stars. Congress recognized the group in 1936 and four years later President Roosevelt issued a proclamation declaring the last Sunday in September Gold Star Mother's Day.

Recent polls have shown that a majority, 54 percent in a recent Gallup Poll, say the U.S. made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq. That's up from 46 percent in March. In March 2003 an overwelming majority supported the war.

Scheurer and his son, David, disagree on the war. He finished his tour with the Marines and then went into the Army National Guard.

"It was part economic, adventure and duty. There weren't many job opportunites when he got out of the Marines," he said, noting he was trained to drive amphibious assault vehicles.

"His view is we fight them over there or we fight them over here," he said.

Scheurer ran in the Democratic primary in 2003 for a chance to challenge U.S. Rep. Philip Crane, R-Wauconda, as a peace candidate, but lost. Then he ran against state Rep. JoAnn Osmond, R-Antioch, because she had no opposition and lost again. He said he is contemplating a third party run for Congress, but that requires a huge number of signatures.

He said even though he and his son differ on the war, his son supported him in election efforts.

He said the sole purpose of the vigils are to share what it is like to be a military family. "The vigils are to show solidarity with those suffering this experience," he said.

He also had another child, his daughter, Marcy, 29, who was in Army intelligence along with her husband. She is out now and served after the first Gulf War. He has another son, Allen, 31, and another daughter, Essie Shur, 23, who changed her name because she is an actress. She has been a guest actress on American Dreams and is in a movie called Smile that is coming out soon.