March 10 2010 12:00 AM

Bernero attacked over education, labor issues



A series of robo-calls have gone out 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 from Dillon’s campaign.

Janise O’Neil Robinson, a Detroit-area special education teacher, received anti- Virg robo-calls on Sunday and Friday. She kept the AFL-CIO call on her voicemail and relayed it as saying:

“You need to ask now: Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is playing games and trying to deceive union leaders into endorsing his campaign for governor, but Bernero does not stand with us. As mayor, Bernero tried to eliminate union police and fire jobs and force Teamsters to work without a contract for over a year. Bernero is in the pocket of his wealthy development friends, and hardworking union members pay the price. Call AFL-CIO president Mark Gaffney … and tell him not to sell out to Bernero. Solidarity forever."

Gaffney was quoted in the Grand Rapids Press Monday as saying he supports Bernero.

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 in 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.