The Republican candidate was joined by union members who lost their jobs when Cold Metal Products Co. closed last month.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
WARREN -- While Timothy J. Ryan, Democratic 17th Congressional District candidate, and his supporters marched in a Labor Day parade Saturday, Republican Ann Womer Benjamin was forced to stand on the sidelines.
After initially inviting her to walk the parade route, members of the Trumbull County Federation of Labor changed their mind, said Womer Benjamin's campaign manager David M.J. All. He said she should have been permitted to march in the interest of "bridge building" and because she "supports labor 100 percent."
Federation representatives have said they chose to only allow the candidate they endorse -- Ryan -- to march.
As he shook hands along the parade route, Ryan told reporters he's been in Akron and Portage County campaigning and hasn't "paid too much attention" to the parade controversy involving Womer Benjamin.
"Two years ago, I wasn't in [the parade]," he said, noting that he wasn't the endorsed candidate in his Ohio Senate race. "It's not my parade. I don't know what the rules are."
He said he was under the assumption that only endorsed candidates appeared in the parade.
Ryan said labor unions created America's middle class and are the only groups left that can combat corporate and political scandals.
"Without the labor unions, we'd be living in a Third World country," he said.
Rally along route
Womer Benjamin took part in a rally along the parade route at the Harriet Taylor Upton house on Mahoning Avenue, where she gathered campaign workers and supporters, carrying American flags and signs reading "Red White and Blue Collar," and "AWB loves AFL-CIO." She carried a "Buy American! Buy Union" poster.
She spoke of her work to support steel workers, and of riding a bus from Warren to Washington, D.C., with steel workers to seek political help for the steel industry.
"I am a friend of labor. I have been a friend of labor over the last eight years in the Ohio House," she said. "I will continue to work for labor because people need help in this area."
Among Womer Benjamin's roughly 40 supporters were about 10 members of United Steel Workers of America Local 3047 who lost their jobs when Cold Metal Products Co. in Campbell closed last month, leaving 116 people jobless.
"Ann's been helping us out," said local vice president John Burnich of Austintown. "She wrote the president [Bush]. She's been working with us. She's showing concern."
Burnich said he feels the decision to oust Womer Benjamin from the parade was wrong.
"Is it a political thing or is it a labor thing?" he said. "They're making it political and it's supposed to be a labor thing."
Appearing in the parade were several politicians vying for various positions in the November election. They joined high school marching bands, Boy Scouts, community groups and several labor unions during the half-hour parade.
Not marching, but on the sidelines dressed in all red-white-and-blue with a tall striped hat was the Rev. Werner Lange, proclaiming, "Uncle Sam wants you to vote for Jim Traficant." As an independent, Lange is seeking the 65th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
Lange noted that he "wasn't even considered" for marching in the parade, saying that independent candidates are discriminated against.
He supports James A. Traficant Jr., the former congressman serving an eight-year federal prison term for corruption and tax crimes. Traficant is an independent candidate for the 17th Congressional District seat.