WASHINGTON – One of the nation's largest unions is buying advertisements critical of proposed federal budget cuts in social programs for the middle-class and poor -- aiming the ads at seven GOP House members.
Efforts are also planned to target other lawmakers whom organized labor considers wrong on budget priorities.
The $500,000 ad buy by AFSCME includes a national ad starting Monday on CNN and local ads on both cable and broadcast TV starting Tuesday in markets covering the congressional districts of GOP Reps. Mike Castle of Delaware, Jerry Weller of Illinois, Jim Nussle of Iowa, Joe Schwarz of Michigan, Jo Anne Emerson of Missouri, Sherwood Boehlert of New York and Steve LaTourette of Ohio -- most of them from swing districts.
Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, said, "There will be many, many people in their districts who don't know they're doing this. People are going to really get hurt by these cuts.
"We need to stop the slaughter of public services to take care of tax cuts for the wealthy," McEntee said.
The national AFSCME ad shows images of families in the background as a woman's voice can be heard criticizing Republicans' stance on the budget.
"President Bush and his supporters in Congress are making the wrong choices," she says. "The Republican House just voted to slash health care for struggling families, cut college loans for middle-class kids and take food off the tables of poor children.
"Why are they hurting America's families? Incredibly, to give billions in tax breaks to millionaires. Tell George Bush and the Republican Congress, tax breaks for the rich at the expense of families in real need is just plain wrong."
The ads aimed at the seven lawmakers are running through the week, and that run could be extended if the budget debate continues, said Jodi Sakol, an AFSCME spokeswoman.
"None of them are vulnerable and 12 months before elections, I'm not sure anybody's paying attention," said Carl Forti, a spokesman for the Republicans' House campaign committee.
Meanwhile, the Service Employees International Union is buying newspaper ads and billboards targeting a number of Republican lawmakers from the House and Senate and one Democrat, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana. Religious leaders from across the country planned to visit Washington on Wednesday to hold a vigil protesting the budget cuts.
In a separate effort, the AFL-CIO is organizing campaigns in 10 states to pressure members of Congress to take positions "favoring working families" on key issues.
The AFL-CIO is highlighting lawmakers it says are on the wrong side of issues like increasing the minimum wage, supporting the president's Social Security plans and opposing legislation that would let workers organize.
"The mission of the AFL-CIO is to fight for America's working families and that means serving as a watchdog and holding politicians accountable when they stand on the wrong side of workers," said Richard Trumka, secretary-treasurer of the umbrella group for more than 50 unions. The grassroots campaign "is going to make sure working families know who's on their side on issues that are vital to their futures," he said.
The AFL-CIO is hiring organizers in each of the 10 states -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin -- to hold news conferences, talk to editorial boards, organize conference calls and put out report cards that identify whether lawmakers take the right position on issues.
Four senators singled out by the AFL-CIO for their voting records are Jim Talent of Missouri; Conrad Burns of Montana; Mike DeWine of Ohio and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. All are up for re-election in 2006.