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.


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