Two of the Virginia Democratic party's three candidates for statewide office asked state leaders of the nation's largest union of public employees for votes yesterday without saying a word about labor unions.
Both Edward E. Lane the candidate for attorney, general and Charles S. "Chuck" Robb, who is running for lieutenant governor, say they are opposed to collective bargaining for public employees, and say they stressed other qualifications in the speeches they gave to the leadership conference of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Lane talked about how he was president of his local Boy Scout Council, had served on his church vestry, and as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had worked to insure that state workers would not have to pay additional taxes.
Robb said he had "an awful lot to learn" but hoped that those assemble would give him a chance to work for new jobs and to reduce unemployment.
Both of them avoided discussing collective bargaining.
Collective bargaining has been an important issue with AFSCME, particularly since last January, when the Virginia Supreme Court ruled that local governments may not negotiate labor contracts with their employees and that all then existing pacts between labor organizations and local governments were invalid.
Henry Howell, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia, supports collective bargaining. Although Howell was unable to attend the AFSCME meeting, his stand-in, Jean Janssen, the campaign's voter registration coordinator, delivered the word.
"You know (Howell) is an advocate of collective bargaining," Janssen told the group of about 50. "He believes that employers and employees are two entirely different birds with completely different concerns. He knows that the only way they can communicate with each other is by having a collective bargaining mechanism." Her speech was greeted by muttered "Amens" from the back of the room.
By then both Robb and Lane were out of the room. Interviewed while shaking hands that would be pulling the voting levers in November, both candidates managed to make as little a point out of their opposition to collective bargaining as possible!
"The law's the law," said Lane, reffering to the state Supreme Court decision, "I'm not running for a policy making position, all the Attorney General does it enforce the law."
"I'm basically against collective bargaining," Robb said reluctantly. "But I'm not unqualifiedly against it. Maybe there's a middle ground. I think public employees ought to have the opportunity to get together, but whether it ought to be binding is a different story."
The candidates' failure to address union issues, however, was passed over by Peter J. Moralis, executive director of Virginia Public Employees Council 30, with a stiff-upper lip approach in his admonition to the assembled. "We're going to have to allow some of our feelings to be set aside." Moralis told the group. "There's just no living with (Republican gubernatorial candidate John N.) Dalton."
One local vice-president put his own feelings about Robb and Lane more succinctly. "They're turkeys," he said. "But they're Democratic turkeys."