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Recap: Union hugs and Charlotte in 2012

Jeremy Sprinkle
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Labor makes a splash at Democratic National Convention

Notwithstanding the angst of some about Democrats' choice of Charlotte, the DNC was a  big success for America's unions. In addition to all the work union members - from IATSE to IBEW, CWA, and others - did preparing for the convention, over one thousand union members attended as convention delegates, some from all 50 states.

The DNC being in Charlotte also gave us the perfect opportunity to have repeated discussions with both the media and union leaders about North Carolina's right-to-work-for-less status, about the need for public employee here to have collective bargaining, and about the important role unions play in building and sustaining America's middle class.

"The people, the workers in North Carolina, they deserve all the same rights as ever body else, every other worker in every other state," said AFL-CIO president Rich Trumka in an interview with the Washington Post about why we didn't sit out Charlotte in 2012.

"Folks are excited about this convention; excited about the opportunity to renominate this president; excited about the opportunity to re-energize our members so they can go out in Nov. 6 and vote for this president," NC State AFL-CIO president James Andrews told CBC News.

Lots of coverage for #HugAThug

Things kicked off on Labor Day with Carolina Fest, a huge street party and concert in the heart of Charlotte, after the traditional Labor Day parade. About 30,000 people attended, including delegates, the media, and many area residents.

We decided to take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with a national spotlight to bust the right-wing myth of the union thug by giving away free hugs to festival goers from North Carolina union members - an attraction we playfully called "Hug A Thug".

We offered to take people's pictures, which we posted on the website, and handed out souvenir #HugAThug postcards as well as thank you cards to folks for the work they do. The response we received was overwhelming. Within six hours, we had given out 400 hugs and passed out some 4,000 cards! #HugAThug garnered a lot of media attention as well, local and national, all of it positive, like this story by North Carolina Public Radio:

"MaryBe McMillan is the Secretary-Treasurer of the North Carolina State AFL-CIO. The organization’s Hug-a-thug booth in downtown Charlotte on Labor Day welcomed non-stop visitors for hours. McMillan says they’re trying to turn the whole stereotype of union thugs on its head by disarming them with – hugs.

'And you know, showing folks union members they’re just average folks, they’re your neighbors, they’re the people sitting next to you at church, they deliver your mail, they keep you safe they take care of you in the hospital. So we’re hoping that by being out here we’ve been doing a lot of hugs that we’ve changed some minds of some folks about what unions are all about.'"

The L.A. Times, Washington Post, ABC News, and Bloomberg were among the news outlets who covered #HugAThug. We even earned positive coverage from Fox News! See below for a full list of press clips.

Click here to visit and see and share photos of all the love we gave out at Carolina Fest. If there's a special union member in your life, you can even submit a photo of your own union hug!

Rich Trumka's address to the DNC

AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka addressed the Democratic National Convention, during which he urged everyone present to the take time to thank a convention worker for the hard work they all do to make the convention possible. Our work connects us all, all of us, and that's something Trumka said the speakers at the Republican National Convention didn't understand.

"Mitt Romney told us he and his friends built America without any help from the rest of us. Well let me tell you, Mitt Romney doesn't know a thing about hard work or responsibility. [...]

"See, prosperity requires economic security, and we will stand with leaders who strengthen and protect Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid, not those who plan to cut benefits that working people paid for, earned, and are counting on."

Click here to watch Rich Trumka's address to the DNC.

UAW President Bob King's address to the DNC

The thousands of United Autoworkers in North Carolina were well represented at the Democratic National Convention, where UAW President Bob King talked about how President Obama bet on an American comeback in our auto industry and how his support for workers' right to form unions and bargain is good for all Americans.

"Strong unions and collective bargaining have lifted millions of people out of poverty and built the great American middle class, and it's the middle class that keeps America's democracy and economy strong.

"The Republicans - just look at Wisconsin. The Republicans want to take us back to a time when workers could not stand up for themselves; when workers couldn't speak with one voice; when workers couldn't speak out for fairness, justice, and middle-class opportunity.

King said the choice autoworkers and every worker faces this November is clear. It's "about what kind of country we want to be. The choice is clear - we must re-elect President Barack Obama."

Click here to watch Bob King's address to the DNC.

#HugAThug and other DNC Press Clips

Unions Looking For Some Love At DNC [North Carolina Public Radio]

'Hug a Thug': Union gives free hugs to try to help image [FOX NEWS BROADCAST]

'Hug a Union Thug': Labor puts on happy face at DNC [LA Times],0,3700002.story

Charlotte welcomes the world with Carolina Fest [Associated Press]

North Carolina union members host 'Hug-A-Thug' for convention [FOX News]

Team Obama works to mend fences with labor as convention begins [FOX News]

Unions hard at work on Labor Day [USA Today]

Hugs From Thugs Replace Union Cash As U.S. Democrats Meet [Bloomberg]

LIVE from Charlotte: CarolinaFest in pictures [Northwest Progressive Blog]

Union members offer free hugs at Charlotte event [Associated Press]

North Carolina Union Members Host ‘Hug-A-Thug’ Event At The Democratic National Convention [Inquisitr]

North Carolina Labor Union Invites DNC-Goers to 'Hug-A-Thug' [ABC News]

Union members offer free hugs at Charlotte event [Charlotte Observer]

Will Joe Biden camp out in Eastover? [Charlotte Observer]

Labor tries to soften image with 'hug a union thug' booth in Charlotte [The Hill]

Hug A Thug Booth Big Hit in Charlotte [AFL-CIO Now]

At Democratic convention’s street fest in Charlotte, funnel cake and campaigning [Washington Post]

Union members cite shortcomings in Democratic leaders on labor issues [Free Speech Radio News]

Democrats look to re-energize base at convention [CBC News]

James Andrews on Charlotte in 2012 as chance to organize (starts at 1hr, 5min, 40sec) [The Rick Smith Show]