FAIRBANKS -- A Fairbanks lawmaker is the target of a union effort to elect his opponent.
About 100 union members on Saturday morning gathered for a press conference at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall, then went door-to-door to encourage voters to vote for the opponent of state Rep. Mike Kelly, a three-term Republican state representative.
Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that he and the 60,000 Alaskan union members he represents take issue with recent advertisements featuring union workers voicing their support for Kelly
"I'm not sure who the people are in the ads, but I can tell you with 99 percent certainty they're not aware of Mike Kelly's abysmal record," Beltrami said. "And if they are aware, they should be ashamed."
Kelly said the people in the ads are union members and not actors but declined to name them.
Beltrami said organized labor takes issues with Kelly's work to eliminate Alaska's defined benefit pension plan for state workers.
They also object to his votes against outlawing mandatory overtime for nurses, raising the state minimum wage and providing presumptive disability benefits for firefighters, Beltrami said.
"In short, Mike Kelly has been no friend to working families," Beltrami said.
Following chants of "Vote him out," the union members from Local 1547, Local 942, Teamsters, Carpenters, Alaska Public Employees Association and other groups went door-to-door to campaign for Kelly's opponent, Democrat Bob Miller.
Kelly, who won his 2008 bid for re-election by only four votes, said he was not surprised by union efforts to oust him.
"I've worked with unions in life and I have high respect for them and support some of their demands," he said.
"But they lean toward the Obama agenda and they're not going to find me there, and that's clearly where my opponent is."
On the issue of presumptive disability benefits, Kelly said, he does not believe people in any field should be treated differently from anyone else even if they put their lives in danger.
He said he opposes outlawing mandatory overtime for nurses because the government should not be involved in workplace issues.
In regard to the minimum wage, Kelly said, mandating higher wages will increase unemployment.
He acknowledged that changing the state's pension plan made him particularly unpopular among organized labor but said it was the right thing to do. The change, he said, affects newly hired workers and not those who were already employed by the state when the changes went into effect.
"I think it was the necessary and responsible move," Kelly said.
He said he expects that many union members will support him in the November election.