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In a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Tuesday appearance on the state capitol steps to oppose the “Employee Free Choice Act” or “card check” Joe the Plumber, AKA Joe Wurzelbacher, was jeered and heckled by members of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. The union members were bused in at the order of union president William M. George. A radio on one union bus was deliberately cranked up to try and drown out Wurzelbacher.
“Rat! Rat! Rat!” the angry union members yelled as Wurzelbacher attempted to speak.
The dramatic event captured local headlines and filled local television screens. It had the ironic impact of vividly underscoring the point opponents have been making of the bill, that removing the secret ballot from workers asked to decide whether they wish to join a union would open them to acts of intimidation. In a front-page story by reporter Laura Vecsey the Harrisburg Patriot-News described the rally appearance by the union members as a “display of union anger, intimidation and outrage that helps make the point that strong-arm tactics are the reason union organizing activity should be done by secret ballot,” a point made by Americans for Prosperity president Tim Phillips. AFP was a rally sponsor, along with Pennsylvania Right to Work.
According to the news account, union boss George had ordered union-owned buses to “haul carpenters, sheet-metal workers, Teamsters, steel workers and, yes, ‘real’ licensed plumbers” from an area union hall. When questioned, one vocal union protestor identified himself as “Bill Smith” and refused to say where he worked. Others identified themselves as members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local 143, while a leather jacketed man with the words “steel workers organizer” emblazoned on the back of his jacket was seen working the crowd.
The rally was originally intended to persuade U.S. Senator Arlen Specter to oppose card check. In an announcement several days ago, Specter said he would do just that.
Ironically, Wurzelbacher began his remarks by noting his support for unions. “Let me start off right now by saying I’m not against unions. Not at all. Unions have made America strong, no doubt. I have a brother and other family members who are union members and they tell me they want to work their 40 hours and go home without coercion or intimidation.”
The union organizers would have none of it.
Wurzelbacher drove to Harrisburg from his home in Toledo, Ohio, and returned after the rally. In his pickup truck.