March 8 2010 12:00 AM

At least three calls since Friday hit Lansing mayor on labor issues

A series of robo-calls have gone out in the past few days attacking Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero on his labor record.

At least one call went out on Friday around 4:30 p.m. and asked recipients to contact UAW President Ron Gettelfinger and ask him to not support Bernero for the Democratic nomination for governor. Rumors have circulated recently that Bernero will soon get the union’s endorsement. The robo-call says Bernero is "bad for labor."

Another call went out over the weekend asking recipients to contact Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney urging him not to support Bernero.

On Monday, a robo-call went out related to education, touting House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, as a "strong advocate" for education.

Some have said that the attacks are coming from either the Michigan Republican Party or perhaps the rival Democratic gubernatorial campaign of House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township.
Democratic political consultant Joe DiSano said that a robo-call campaign like this is inexpensive, but also largely ineffective.

“The bulk of voters don’t know who any of these people are; it has no resonance,” he said. DiSano said that the calls were likely made statewide, saying he received reports of people from Marquette to the Detroit area receiving the calls.

Those who have received the calls have reported they came from a number with a 202 area code, which is Washington.

That may not mean they originated there, however. DiSano said it’s easy to disguise just where a call is coming from.

DiSano also said that this kind of “petty politics” being played so early in the gubernatorial race is a sign that some fear the strength of Bernero’s campaign.

“If Virg was not a threat to (Dillon) and the Republicans, they wouldn’t be doing this to him; it’s way too early,” he said. “The people who are doing this are trying to derail Virg because he’s gaining momentum and stature.”

DiSano says that he has talked with the Bernero campaign but is not a paid consultant.

Though Bernero has appeared on cable networks defending General Motors and the UAW, not all local labor unions have been in his corner. While Bernero was campaigning for reelection as mayor this fall, the Teamsters 580 union, a supporter of his then-opponent At-Large Councilwoman Carol Wood, held a protest in front of the mayor’s campaign headquarters. Union members brought out a giant inflatable rat to mark 1,000 days that the union had gone without a contract with the city. The Gettelfinger-related robo-call references Bernero's dispute with the Teamsters.