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Why I Support Obama: Columbus Stagehand Shares Personal Story

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Thomas N. Sico, a member of State and Theatrical Employees (IATSE) Local 12 in Columbus, Ohio, wrote the following letter to IATSE officers about President Obama’s support for using IATSE members at a Monday campaign rally in Columbus.  IATSE President Matthew Loeb forwarded the letter to us.

I know we are all tired of seeing political ads, but please take a moment to read this before you head to the polls today. Over the last few days political history happened in Columbus Ohio and IATSE Local 12 was at the center of it.

Late last week, our Business Agent filled a call for 65 stagehands at Nationwide Arena. As we are all aware, clients rarely choose to use IATSE 12 in Nationwide. However, this client was Youngtown based Forty-Two Inc., the AV vendor for President Barack Obama in Ohio, and his campaign had chosen downtown Columbus as the location for his last campaign stop before election day. Richard Shack filled the call with excitement.

Excitement quickly turned to frustration when the building management stated to the Obama campaign that Nationwide was a "non-union" venue and that IATSE Local 12 stagehands would not be welcome to work there. Our Business Agent Richard Shack and our President Doug Boggs immediately began to contact local politicians including Franklin County Commissioner Marilyn Brown, Mayor Mike Coleman, former Strickland administration official Patrick Harris, and others with whom we have developed relationships over the years. In addition, the leadership of IATSE in DC and NYC was contacted, and President Loeb became involved.

Then something special happened: the politicians we elect to represent our interests went to work. Marilyn Brown had multiple conversations with Nationwide Arena management on our behalf. Senator Sherrod Brown became involved. Finally, according to second-hand sources, our lobbying actually reached the Obama campaign, who informed the building that they would rather cancel the event altogether than do this event without a full crew of Union stagehands. The President of the United States stood up for IATSE Local 12.

On Sunday morning 65 stagehands showed up, led by Richard Steele as union steward, and loaded in the show like the professionals they are. Riggers from IATSE locals in Cleveland, Detroit, Dayton, Toledo and Youngstown helped Columbus area riggers hang over 60 points and a giant 60' wide American flag. The rally on Monday afternoon used a deck crew of union stage hands that helped Bruce Springsteen, Jay- Z, and finally Barack Obama entertain an arena full of "fired up and ready to go" Obama supporters. It was a great event.

As stagehands returned to the Arena for the load out, we waited for an unusually long time and were searched by secret service personnel. President Obama had stayed over an hour after the event was over to personally thank each member of the crew! Many members of Local 12 were able to meet the President in person.

There is no politician more powerful than the President of the United States, and it is incredible that he stood up for us when we needed him most. President Obama stayed around to thank us when he had many other things he could do with his time, on the night before Election Day. As union members we sometimes feel abandoned by the leaders we elect to serve us. However the past few days have shown that some of those leaders care about us, and came through when it mattered most. Our own elected union officials did a superb job and local politicians have promised to follow up this event with further investigation in to the status of IATSE local 12 in Nationwide Arena.

Please consider these events when you and your families head to the polls today. President Barack Obama and Senator Sherrod Brown support IATSE Local 12. Now we need to thank them with our votes, and the votes of our friends and families Please pass this on and thank you for your time.

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