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Marchers pressure Thurman

Union pickets say the U.S. House member's vote is needed to save American jobs.

By JIM ROSS

© St. Petersburg Times, published May 13, 2000


INVERNESS -- About 40 people gathered outside U.S. Rep. Karen Thurman's local office Friday afternoon to participate in a union-sponsored demonstration. Their goal: to persuade Thurman to vote against normalizing trade relations with China.

The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on that matter May 22. Thurman, D-Dunnellon, is among the lawmakers still undecided on the issue.

Thurman represents the 5th Congressional District, which includes Citrus and Hernando counties, west Pasco, and all or part of four other counties.

People who support normalizing relations argue that the pact would increase sales of American goods to China and, by extension, help Florida workers.

Business groups, especially those representing citrus producers and high-tech firms, are backing the plan.

But organized labor is strongly opposed, arguing that a move to normalize relations would just ship American jobs to China, where the human rights record is as bad as the wage scale.

If nothing else, they have said, the U.S. should demand that the Chinese government improve labor and environmental conditions as part of the deal to normalize relations.

"They've broken every agreement they've ever made with the U.S.," said Butch Enyard, who helped lead the demonstration Friday.

Enyard is business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers System Council 8 in Dunnellon. Also participating in the demonstration were representatives from the postal workers' union, the Teamsters, the United Auto Workers and steelworkers.

The people stood along State Road 44 outside Thurman's office, which is in a complex at 2224 SR 44 W, near Cinnamon Sticks restaurant. Some waved signs with slogans such as "Make the Global Economy Work for Working Families."

Later, a small group went inside the office and talked to staffers, who again explained that Thurman is studying the issue and has not yet decided how she will vote.

The demonstrators said history gave them reason to hope.

"Karen delivered on NAFTA. She voted against it," Enyard said of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which passed despite that vote.

The AFL-CIO sponsored the rally.

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