Construction Workers' Union Boos Boehner at Legislative Forum

Wednesday, March 28, 2007




House Minority Leader John Boehner was booed on Wednesday at a construction workers’ union legislative forum for saying the United States needs to fight the war in Iraq or face terror attacks at home.

"Who doesn't believe that if we just pull out of Iraq and come home that the terrorists won't follow us here and we'll be fighting them on the streets of America?" Boehner, R-Ohio, said to members attending the AFL-CIO's Building & Construction Trades Department's legislative forum.

Apparently, most in the crowd don't believe it. Boos from the audience grew louder as Boehner continued, "This is a, ladies and gentlemen, this is a serious fight.

"I understand there is disagreement. But I'm here to be honest with you. I like to say it straight. We have to fight the enemy at some point, and if we don't fight him now, when will we fight them?" he continued to catcalls. Boehner then received laughs for adding, "I appreciate the dialogue."

Boehner, Rep. Peter King of New York and Sen. Chuck Hagel were the three Republicans who spoke at the annual meeting, interspersed among six Democratic White House hopefuls who received warm receptions.

The group is an alliance of craft unions that include members of skilled and construction labor. More than 3,000 building trades delegates were on hand for the group’s conference to promote its national legislative agenda. The event follows the Communication Workers of America’s forum on Tuesday that featured Democratic presidential candidates Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and former Sen. John Edwards.

At both events, the candidates touted their positions of support for organized labor, an end to the war in Iraq and universal health care coverage.

Sen. Joe Biden, a Democratic White House hopeful who pledged to be the "best friend labor ever had at the White House," called for an end to the war.

"I have an obligation to make sure my son's National Guard unit doesn't fight a civil war," Biden said. “This war must end and it must end soon."

Former Sen. John Edwards, a favorite among organized labor, was received with a standing ovation. Seeking the group's endorsement, he pledged his support to it and thanked the audience for its prayers for his wife, Elizabeth, who revealed last week that her cancer returned.

Edwards talked about his support for an increase of the minimum wage, lower college costs, organizing people into unions and universal health care.

“I’m the only candidate with a specific, detailed, truly universal health care plan,” Edwards said.

Fellow Democratic contender Hillary Clinton promoted the Employee Free Choice Act, which would simplify the process of forming and joining unions and increase penalties for violations of employee rights. She also mocked President Bush's idea for recovering the economy after the 2001 terror attacks.

"Do you remember what the president asked us to do after 9/11? Go shopping. I had to listen a couple times to make sure I heard him right. I mean, I like shopping as much as the next person but I think we can reach higher than that," Clinton said.

Taking another jab, she added that she will support workers over CEOs.

“We wouldn't have a middle class without the unions. It has been the backbone of the democracy movement. CEO pay is up, corporate profits up and productivity is up, but you're not being rewarded for that hard work,” Clinton said.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also won a standing ovation by pledging that if he is president, he will appoint a union leader to the top of his administration.

He also rallied the audience by saying that in 1992 unions turned out 19 percent of the vote and Bill Clinton won the presidency. "In 2000, unions turned out 25 percent of the vote and Al Gore won," Richardson said.

He also pushed his foreign policy credentials as a representative to the United Nations who negotiated the release of American soldiers being held by Cuba's Fidel Castro and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.

“Clinton used to say, ‘send Richardson. Bad guys like him.’ I have the experience,” Richardson said. “I'm not a rock star but I'm the best candidate for president.”

FOX News’ Jake Gibson contributed to this report.