An international labor union cites the use of boycotts as political ammunition in this year’s elections as a reason it ended its boycott of Arizona last week.
Jim McLaughlin, president of the Arizona chapter of the international United Food and Commercial Workers union, said a combination of court action against Senate Bill 1070 and the way Republicans attacked the boycotts prompted the union to shift its focus.
“When the judge’s ruling came down in late July that basically staid some of the more onerous parts of SB 1070, our international union thought this as time for a state of healing to take place,” McLaughlin said.
The Washington, D.C.-based UFCW is an international union that represents a variety of professions, from grocers to hospital and airport workers. The union is one of several groups to boycott the state, in addition to about a dozen cities and counties around the country.
McLaughlin said the decision to boycott was made by the international union, and he had made several requests in the past few months for the union to reconsider the boycott, especially because of its use in political rhetoric.
“Republicans have chosen to use the boycotts as a political discussion point,” he said, referring to the candidates who have attacked their opponents for not denouncing the groups that have boycotted.
“It’s really allowed them to take a pass so that they’re not really talking about the real issues affecting our state,” McLaughlin said.
David Schweikert, Republican candidate for Congressional District 5, is against the boycotts and sent out a newsletter last week about the UFCW’s decision to end the boycott. The newsletter connected the union with Democratic incumbent Harry Mitchell.
Schweikert’s campaign spokesman Chris Baker said the UFCW donated heavily to Mitchell’s campaign, and Mitchell’s decision to not directly condemn the union when it decided to boycott is telling.
“He had an opportunity to put a statement out and he didn’t do it,” Baker said. “You can be a Republican or Democrat, but we all still live here. We all have an interest in seeing Arizona’s economy be strong.”
Melissa Hodgdon, spokeswoman for the Mitchell campaign, said Mitchell did come out against the boycotts early on.
Hodgdon pointed to a July 2 opinion piece Mitchell wrote in the The Arizona Republic opposing the boycotts.
“The important thing is that they’ve ended the boycotts that have hurt the Arizona economy,” she said. Mitchell’s campaign recently released a statement that affirmed his opposition to the boycotts.
“From day one, Harry denounced an economic boycott of Arizona, calling it shortsighted and detrimental to our economic recovery,” the statement said.
Physics junior Hannah Thoreson, director of relations for the ASU College Republicans, said she agreed with the Schweikert campaign, and said the boycotts were not being used as a political tool.
“Harry Mitchell should have denounced the boycotts against his state when our economy is struggling so badly,” Thoreson said. “There’s no reason to be standing on the fence or with the people who are boycotting.”
Erica Patterson, president of the ASU Young Democrats’ Tempe chapter, said she was against the boycotts.
“Boycotting Arizona is not going to change the law that was passed,” Patterson said. “I don’t think Harry Mitchell could have stopped the boycott, even if he had condemned the unions.”
She said the focus should be on the economy rather than arguing over boycotts.
“[Schweikert] should be working toward fixing what is wrong with Arizona’s economy,” Patterson said.
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