Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader calls AFL-CIO president a ‘bully’

Oregon Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader called national AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka a “bully” in an interview with a Washington, DC, blog — because the AFL-CIO has begun campaigning against Democrats who support Fast Track.

Kurt Schrader
Kurt Schrader

Fast track is legislation to make it easier to pass more NAFTA-style trade deals, and its defeat has been the AFL-CIO’s top priority for months. In March, the labor federation declared a moratorium on political campaign contributions until the issue is settled, and in June, the AFL-CIO began running television and online ads criticizing Democrats who support fast track. Trumka has even threatened to withhold support from Democrats who vote for fast track.

Apparently, Schrader considers that bullying. [Schrader announced May 8 that he supports fast track, and voted for it on June 12.]

“We’re solid on labor issues,” Schrader told CQ Roll Call, a publication for Washington DC insiders. “To have this become a litmus test for one individual issue, I think that’s demeaning.… To actively campaign against you when you’re with them 80 percent of the time — I don’t take kindly to bullying. That gets my dander up. And I hope it gets the dander up of most every single member of my party.”

In fact, Schrader has a lifetime record of voting in accord with AFL-CIO recommendations 84 percent of the time, as of 2013. But some of his votes that the AFL-CIO called “wrong” were doozies:

  • In 2009, he voted against the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill, which passed in response to massive Wall Street fraud. That’s the bill that created the Consumer Financial Protection Agency, and regulated financial derivatives for the first time.
  • In 2010, he voted against a bill giving federal employees four weeks of paid parental leave. He also voted against the DREAM Act, which gives a path to citizenship to children of undocumented immigrants who graduate from high school and serve in the military or attend college for two years.
  • In 2011, he voted for a bill that the AFL-CIO said would cripple effective workplace safety regulation by adding years of delay to the rulemaking process of agencies like OSHA and the Mine Safety and Health Administration.
  • In 2013, he introduced legislation directing President Obama to follow the unofficial “Simpson-Bowles” recommendations. The recommendations included cutting Social Security benefits, shifting Medicare costs to beneficiaries, lowering tax rates for the wealthy and corporations, and increasing tax incentives for shipping jobs overseas.

In each of those cases, Schrader voted with Republicans and against the overwhelming majority of Democrats. In the House, he’s known as co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, a group of Democrats who want to “transcend partisan politics.”

Schrader’s “bully” charge came in an interview with Roll Call’s politics blog, At the Races — after a group of nearly 20 House Democrats met June 3 with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to discuss their worries about labor’s fast track threats.

But not every Democrat thinks withholding contributions is bullying.

“Here’s the deal,” Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) told the blog. “Everybody goes to the well of labor when they’re running for office in terms of contributions. … Early on in this process, anybody around in the last session knew that with [trade] coming up, that was going to be a litmus test, and so to say now that labor is being mean or over the top in terms of their criticisms of Democrats who are going to vote for [TPA] is kind of like a late realization when you’ve already taken the money and the support.”

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