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Unions support Tomblin in special election

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Numerous unions across the state have thrown their support behind gubernatorial hopeful Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin and shunned Republican opponent Bill Maloney, who they say has not paid enough attention to unions in his bid for governor.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association and chair of its political action committee, criticized Maloney for saying he would consider refusing federal funds that help finance West Virginia's public schools.

"This causes us great concern," Lee said. "Maloney doesn't appear to have a plan or a strategy. Earl Ray Tomblin brings the experience and ideas needed to move the state forward.

 "We have way too many kids in poverty and in need for the state to refuse federal dollars that pay for free lunch, special education and Title One programs."

Title One programs pay for more than 3,000 teachers in low-income West Virginia schools where many students need additional help in areas like reading and mathematics.

"We need someone who will bring respect to our educational system," Lee said. "Tomblin has pledged to provide a quality education for all of our kids. We have to ensure there is a high quality teacher in every classroom."

Maloney refused to fill out an election questionnaire WVEA sent to both candidates, Lee said.

In addition to having the support of the education system, the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce has also thrown its support behind the acting governor.

Steve Roberts, president of the state Chamber, pointed out that they are not the only state agency that is supporting Tomblin. The West Virginia Coal Association, Charleston Alliance, Huntington Chamber of Commerce, Logan County Chamber of Commerce and West Virginia Business and Industry Council have also pledged their support.

Kenny Perdue, president of the West Virginia AFL-CIO, said, "Gov. Tomblin thought enough of us to complete our questionnaire. Bill Maloney didn't even do that. He apparently didn't want our endorsement.

"Maloney has criticized tax incentives. That is hypocritical," Perdue said. "He accepted tax incentives for his businesses, but now wants to stop them for new businesses coming in. We want to create a more positive business atmosphere in the state. "

Perdue also criticized Maloney's plans to weaken safety standards in a state where "fatalities have been so widespread for many years.

"I want him to look at the face of a fallen worker -- a coal miner, steelworker or chemical worker -- or into the eyes of widows and say, 'we want to weaken safety standards.' It is amazing he would even bring that up."

Teddy Hapney, international representative for the United Mine Workers, said, Maloney's perceived ignorance into safety standards is disheartening.

"Our main concern is trying to protect the health and safety of miners," he said.

Hapney praised Tomblin for appointing C.A. Phillips to be director of the state Office of Miners Safety, Health and Training in August. Phillips, the agency's acting director since last November, had been the agency's deputy director for 10 years.

"This was the first time somebody from the ranks of the UMW has held that office since Gaston Caperton was governor."

Hapney also expressed concern about the anti-union movements against public employees in states like Wisconsin and Ohio.

"We also represent some state employees. Mr. Maloney didn't even bother to fill out our questionnaire. Earl Ray did."

Judy Hale, president of American Federation of Teachers' West Virginia chapter, said its Tomblin's willingness to speak to people that makes him the better candidate.

"He has always been someone we could talk to. He may not have always agreed with us, but he would always listen," she said of Tomblin, referring to his being a state senator and Senate president, acting as governor.

"As Senate Finance Committee chair, Tomblin was very conservative. But as a result, we have not had any teacher layoffs here like in other states. And we were granted a pay raise last year. That is very different from many of our colleagues around the country. He is very fiscally responsible," Hale said.

Ken Hall is president of Teamsters Local 175 based in South Charleston, which endorsed State Treasurer John Perdue in the gubernatorial primary.

"We supported John Perdue because he has always been a friend of ours. We have no regrets," Hall said.

"After the primary, I talked to Earl Ray Tomblin for a hour and a half.  His ideas about what he should be doing are not that different from what I think. I have always said the governor shouldn't totally favor the business community or totally favor labor.

"You need a balance if you want to increase jobs in the state. That is what this is about," said Hall, who also is international vice president of the Teamsters.

"His positions are totally in line with ours, trying to attract more corporations to move here.

"And he doesn't support right-to-work legislation, which is very divisive. Wages and benefits are significantly lower in right-to-work states."

"Under Tomblin's leadership, West Virginia has had a surplus that is the envy of almost all states in the United States," Hall said.

Elaine Harris, international representative for the Communication Workers of America in West Virginia, said, "Bill Maloney represents what is going on around the country -- an attack on public workers in states like Wisconsin and Ohio."

The CWA backed House Speaker Rick Thomson, D-Wayne, in the primary, but is actively supporting Tomblin today. Maloney also failed to fill out a CWA election questionnaire and did not meet with union members.

Harris expressed concern about the possibility Maloney would consider cutting federal funds for West Virginia's schools.

"That is the biggest thing that concerns me," Harris said. "Thank God for Senator [Robert C.] Byrd. We miss him. He took good care of us. If Maloney is elected, that is very worrisome."

Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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