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Call to resign is political, rep's spokesman says



Published: Sat, May 19, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The labor group has 'animosity toward the congressman,' his spokesman said.

By DAVID SKOLNICK

VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER

YOUNGSTOWN -- Trumbull County Federation of Labor's call for U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr.'s resignation is a "political maneuver that isn't good for the area," the congressman's spokesman said.

"Before taking the request seriously, remember that this is a political organization with its own agenda that does not fall in line with the congressman's labor agenda," said Charles Straub, Traficant's spokesman. "What's driving this is political in nature."

The federation, which represents about 18,000 members of more than 50 labor unions, voted Wednesday to ask Traficant of Poland, D-17th, to resign. It was the first labor group to pass a resolution seeking Traficant's resignation.

Reasons cited: The reasons for the request are Traficant's indictment on 10 felony counts, including bribery, racketeering and tax evasion; his decision to act as his own attorney in that case; and that he is the only rank-and-file congressman to not sit on any committees, said Michael O'Donnell, the federation's president.

The vote was not politically motivated and was done with the hope that Traficant would realize that the Mahoning Valley needs better representation in Congress than what it is receiving now, O'Donnell said.

Straub said the labor group -- which includes local steelworkers, electrical workers, communications workers, carpenters, plumbers and iron workers -- does not truly represent the average Mahoning Valley union member.

"The group clearly has animosity toward the congressman and aren't giving a fair representation of what union members think," Straub said.

The group's endorsement in last year's Democratic congressional primary of state Sen. Robert F. Hagan of Youngstown over Traficant is a clear indication of its bias against the congressman, Straub said.

Straub also said Traficant would not be surprised if his other "vocal opponents" called for his resignation.

"The congressman's not going to be slowed down or bothered by what these groups are saying," Straub said. "He's going to continue to do his business in Washington and get things done and bring back money."

Amendment: Evidence of that, Straub said, is Traficant getting an amendment included in the proposed federal education bill that would require school districts receiving money from that legislation to use American-made steel on construction projects. Congress will consider the amendment next week.

"It's rather bad timing on the federation's part to be calling for resignation when he very clearly is making significant strides to help the U.S. steel industry and in other aspects important to labor," he said.

Traficant, whose federal trial is set to begin Feb. 4, 2002, has no intention of resigning, Straub said.

skolnick@vindy.com




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