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Lynch's Labor Problem

Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch, candidate for governor, scored a key labor endorsement a couple of weeks ago from the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 328. But Lynch, who has been courting labor and other progressives as he mounts a run to the left of Democratic rival Frank Caprio, has a labor problem.

He recently announced opposition to a bill that would allow Deepwater Wind to circumvent the state's Public Utilities Commission in building a small wind farm, precursor to a much larger project. And his position has some merit: the legislation would essentially fix the regulatory process for the benefit of one company. Good government groups and even environmentalists who back the wind farm have objected to the proposal.

But Lynch's announcement has upset key labor figures like George Nee of the AFL-CIO and Michael Sabatoni of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council who see the larger farm as a major economic - and jobs - engine.

And the concerns go deeper: Nee and Sabatoni say Lynch, as attorney general, has been lackluster in enforcing fair labor laws in the state. The AG says he's been a leader on the issue, but he clearly has a lot to do to convince union leaders - particularly with independent gubernatorial candidate Lincoln Chafee shaping up as an attractive alternative come the general election in November.

I'll have a piece in this week's Phoenix on the issue.

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