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Rahall says unions good for business

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Rep. Nick J. Rahall told West Virginia union leaders on Tuesday that people who believe cheaper, non-union labor is good for American business are "short-sighted."

"Union labor also helps increase corporate America's bottom line with your safety standards and the quality of your work," Rahall said at the event hosted by the State Building Trades Council.

"Each day you go to work, the safety of America's workforce increases and the quality of America's craftsmanship rises," he said. "The source of all those benefits that accrue to our country, the expanding and rebuilding of our national infrastructure and our structurally safe and sound inventory of plants, buildings and homes can be summed up in one word -- union."

Rahall is the senior Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

He said backing from union workers helps promote federal legislation extending the Water Resources Development Act.

"That measure is in ongoing, productive negotiations and working its way into law as we speak. That bill puts the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers back on track for the first time in six years." 

Representatives from the AFL-CIO and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce both testified in favor of federal infrastructure legislation.

Continued cooperation between the two groups, Rahall believes, "is going to be key in getting a long-term, fully-funded transportation bill before current law expires this year on Sept. 30. Building roads builds jobs and grows the economy."

Rahall also responded the growing number of negative television ads attacking him.

Groups such as Americans for Prosperity and the American Energy Alliance have already spent millions on political ads criticizing Rahall and other congressional candidates, primarily Democrats.

Those ads, Rahall said, are part of the "tidal wave of obscene spending going on in campaigns in the wake of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision."

That 5-4 ruling against the Federal Election Commission, released exactly four years ago on Jan. 21, 2010, allows groups not directly tied to any political candidate to keep the identity of many of their donors secret from the public.

Conservative brothers David and Charleston Koch "spent a reported whopping $122 million dollars in the last election cycle" through Americans for Prosperity, Rahall said.

"If you watch TV, even if you only watch NFL football, you probably know what I mean already," Rahall said. "The TV ad war against me has been going on for months, and the election is still 10 months away." 

Rahall said those groups "may have more money than I do. And they may be able to air more TV ads than I possibly can. But thanks to the rank and file, the retirees and the families of union members, I sure do have more friends here at home than they do."

Rahall also questioned the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce for airing a television ad in favor of his opponent in this year's congressional race, state Sen. Evan Jenkins.

"How does it make sense for the Chamber to be working against the one member in the West Virginia congressional delegation who will have a position of power to bring roads, and bridges, and water systems to our state?" Rahall asked.

Rahall said attack ads targeting him often "hit me where my record is the strongest; questioning my support of coal and my support of the coal miner."

Negative campaign ads, Rahall said, are divisive and polarizing to both Congress and the American people.

His efforts to improve and upgrade the nation's transportation infrastructure, Rahall noted, are strongly supported by House Transportation Committee Chairman Bill Shuster, a Republican from Pennsylvania.

Matthew McComas, an Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation field representative, introduced Rahall, calling him "a true friend of ours for years. He is a strong fighter for the middle class and our working people."

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


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