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Tuesday, Mar 03, 2015

Unions combining efforts

Published:   |   Updated: May 7, 2013 at 02:25 PM

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In an unprecedented move, the county's four unions are banding together to put on a candidate forum and inform their respective members about who is running in the November election.

Union representatives met Wednesday night and agreed to call themselves the Coalition of Hernando County Public Service Workers.

Dan Oliver, union steward for Teamsters Local 79, said members will be instructed via mailings, a candidate forum and word of mouth which candidates are best suited to help the community, stick up for workers and make Hernando County a better place to live and work.

The coalition will sort out the candidates who are committed from those only out for their own glory or for the money, said Oliver, whose Teamsters local represents about 400 county employees.

"We want our members' voices heard and the issues heard that matter most to them," Oliver said. "We're not out to tell anybody how to vote. We're just out to educate the people."

The coalition is made up of representatives from the Fraternal Order of Police, county firefighters, the Teamsters and school employees.

FOP member and sheriff's Detective Bill Horvath said he cannot remember when the various county unions came together to help inform their members and families.

"It's a sign of the times, I guess," Horvath said.

Horvath stressed that the coalition would not endorse candidates. The purpose is to educate, he said.

The coalition will sponsor a candidate forum July 10 at Springstead Theater, he said. Horvath said he will invite all those running in local and state races.

The time and other details will be announced at a later date.

"We know that between current and former union members in this county and their families we are going to represent a bloc of about 15,000-30,000 votes, and that's a huge bloc," he said.

Joe Vitalo, president of the Hernando Classroom Teachers Association, said his union joined the group because all the political races will affect educators and the school district.

Rather than send out a list of candidates whom the union supports in the 2012 race, he said the coalition can instead create literature on where politicians stand on issues — without any endorsements.

"It's up to the people to decide which candidates they support," Vitalo said. "All too often people see that unions are endorsing candidates, but they rarely see why, so rather than do that, why not just host a forum to showcase who these people are and what their responses are to these issues?"

Reporter Jeff Schmucker contributed to this story. (352) 544-5290

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