Trumka leaving Charlotte ahead of Obama's acceptance speech

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is leaving Charlotte on Thursday and will not attend President Obama's acceptance speech.

Trumka is leaving early in order to avoid the travel crush at the Charlotte airport on Friday, according to a spokesman for Workers’ Voice, the AFL-CIO’s super-PAC. But there have been tensions between the Obama administration and organized labor for some time.

Spokesman Eddie Vale said Trumka and others union officials' absence was not related to labor’s frustrations with Democrats.

“Nope, this has nothing to do with that,” he said in an email. “We're looking forward to Obama accepting the nomination tonight and working to elect him, we just wanted to make sure that local workers could have this experience since they're the ones who made the convention work and have been so helpful to us.”

Labor groups were unhappy with the Democrats' decision to hold their convention in North Carolina, a right-to-work state that has the lowest union density in the country.

And the AFL-CIO has spent less on this convention compared to prior ones. The federation has had a smaller staff presence in Charlotte compared to the Democratic convention four years ago in Denver but decided against renting out a skybox.

Trumka did address the delegates on Wednesday, as did UAW President Ben King. Both groups have endorsed Obama and are working to get him reelected, seeing him as a lesser evil than Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Organized labor has the money and the man-power to be a powerful ally to the president but Trumka's departure will raise more questions about the relationship between Obama and one of Democrats' most reliable group of supporters.

Unions, insist, however, they are fully on board and point out their grassroots efforts and other plans to return Obama to the Oval Office.

And with Obama's acceptance speech moving indoors Thursday evening, staff for the AFL-CIO are giving away their credentials for the big event.

Due to the change of venue, fewer people will be able to attend the speech in the Time Warner Cable Arena than in the massive, outdoor Bank of America Stadium. Consequently, aides to the nation’s largest labor federation are giving their credentials to workers from Charlotte as well as to the North Carolina State AFL-CIO so they can distribute them to other local workers.  

“Instead we'll be having our own little watch party with some barbecue!” Vale said.