By Jim Siegel
Enquirer Columbus Bureau
COLUMBUS - Hitting on popular union themes, Sen. John Edwards got a rousing reception Tuesday from a room filled with blue-collar workers vital to his effort to become the next vice president.
Edwards spoke to some 950 members of the Ohio AFL-CIO gathered at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
Union President William Burga said the union is doing much more, much earlier for the Kerry-Edwards ticket when compared to its efforts to elect Al Gore in 2000.
"We have more people working more interests," he said. "Our plan is being carried out much better and much more sophisticated. We're doing more polling, more messaging. We're really getting the message out to our members more than we did before."
Not that Burga thinks his 750,000 members need much convincing to vote for John Kerry and Edwards.
"I've never seen our members any more energized then I've seen them this year," he said. "That was one thing I didn't see in 2000."
Edwards criticized Bush support for new overtime laws, which went into effect Monday. Edwards said the laws will eliminate overtime for millions of employees. The Bush administration says more low-income workers will become eligible.
Edwards also attacked Bush policies that he says promote the outsourcing of jobs overseas and expressed support for raising the minimum wage and providing more affordable health care.
"This administration's policy is lifting up people at the top, but it's doing nothing but make life harder for people who are working hard for a living every single day," he said. "We need to do better."
Apart from domestic policy issues, Edwards said that Bush was ducking the question of whether a Republican-funded veterans' group should pull its television ads questioning Kerry's Vietnam service.
"What did we get? We got a typical politician's answer. A non-answer," Edwards said. "He didn't say the three magic words: 'Stop these ads.' "
Bush's campaign called the comments by Edwards "a stunningly hypocritical attack" in light of millions of dollars of anti-Bush ads run by outside groups.
A day earlier, Bush had criticized all such ads, including the one that accused Kerry of exaggerating his Vietnam War record. But Edwards said that Bush's response wasn't enough.
Kerry has urged Bush to call for the group's ads to be pulled, but the Democrat has declined to call for an end to anti-Bush ads run by outside groups funded by Democrats on Kerry's behalf. On Monday, Bush said Kerry should join him in calling for an end to all such ads.
The Associated Press contributed. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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