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KerryPool Report: Faking the Senator Out Edition
•John Kerry visits workers who have been locked out of the RMI Titanium plant since October, 2003. Demonstrates I-feel-your-pain empathy skills.
•At one point, Kerry seemed a little irony-challenged. He greeted a young man in a "Titanic Swim Team" t-shirt and asked what events he swam. The embarrassed kid said he was actually on his high school track team. "So you stole the shirt?" Kerry joked. "I thought you were on the swim team. You faked me out there."
Full report after the jump.
From: "Fitzgerald, Thomas"
Date: Sun, 3 Oct 2004 14:54:09 -0400
Subject: pool report #1 from Fitzgerald
Pool Report # 1
John Kerry visits workers who have been locked out of the RMI Titanium plant since October, 2003. Demonstrates I-feel-your-pain empathy skills.
Color: Decent and on-message
"You better get elected - we can't take four more years of that whack job," yelled Richard Gonnella, a retired steelworker from Warren, Ohio.
"It's up to you," Kerry said.
"We're voting for you," Gonnella said.
The 361 members of United Steelworkers Local 2155 who were locked out by management have created a permanent encampment by the side of the road, with a small shed as picketing headquarters and cords of firewood stacked outside for the 55-gallon drums they'll use to warm themselves as the weather turns. The workers were kicked out after they rejected a contract proposal that contained $3 million in wage and benefits concessions.
"We shouldn't have workers standing out in the street," Kerry said. "We've got to get people back to work."
Kerry signed hats, shirts, scraps of paper and one woman's floor credentials from the Democratic National Convention. He asked several of the workers to tell their stories, nodding encouragement and prodding them along with sympathetic questions.
"So what are you doing?" Kerry asked Donald Bertleff, 54, who worked at RMI for nine years before the lockout and has not been able to find other work.
"You try to survive," Bertleff said. "It's rough."
"Tell me about it," Kerry said.
"Just stay home most of the time and try to make ends meet, with the help of my wife," he said. Martha Bertleff is a clerk at a Giant Eagle grocery.
"What's the hardest part of it besides being locked out and not being able to go to work, in terms of living day to day?" Kerry said. "What's changed?"
"You have to change your entire way of life, basically," said Michael Mignogna, 55, who worked at the plant 24 years. "You're used to doing stuff to try and enjoy yourself and you just can't do it anymore. You're bewildered, because you don't know what to do. You go to bed at night and wondering how you're going to make the electric bill payment, or the gas bill payment, or the rising cost of gasoline looking for a job. Thank god the wife does work. You're always worrying about where that next dollar's going to come just to survive, to buy the groceries." He paused. "Corporate greed - doing what they're doing, it's uncalled for."
Kerry agreed, and addressed himself to the Bertleffs and Mignogna.
"I tell ya, there's a way to help - there really is a way to help, several ways to help, that I've got on the table," Kerry said. He said his health care plan would bring down costs for employers, etc. "This president hasn't even been trying. He sure doesn't seem to be affected by it." As he moved down the road, Kerry said, "I'm sorry you're going through it but help is on the way, with your help. Give us a hand."
Kerry met Tim Kunkel, 20, a student at Youngstown State who is planning to vote in his first presidential. "I'd be excited if I could have your vote," he said. He met several people who attended a Vote for Change concert by Springsteen in Cleveland, telling one guy who raved about the bash, "I'm jealous." Kerry also traded biker talk with a fellow in a black Harley t-shirt, opining that today would be the perfect day to hit the road.
Barbara McArthur, who appeared to be a shade under 5 feet tall, wanted to have her picture taken with the senator. "Well, I'm so short, maybe you should stoop down." He did, and she hugged him tightly around the neck.
At one point, Kerry seemed a little irony-challenged. He greeted a young man in a "Titanic Swim Team" t-shirt and asked what events he swam. The embarrassed kid said he was actually on his high school track team. "So you stole the shirt?" Kerry joked. "I thought you were on the swim team. You faked me out there."