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Labor and its local allies press McCaskill to support extension of unemployment aid

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Dec. 7, 2010 - Already a target of Republicans out to oust her in 2012, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., also finds herself under pressure from the Democratic base out to make clear that its support should not be taken for granted.

The Missouri AFL-CIO and the activist group MORE (Missouri Organization for Reform and Empowerment) are teaming up this morning for a news conference outside McCaskill's St. Louis office, 5850 Delmar Boulevard, to call for her support for extending unemployment benefits set to soon expire for millions of Americans.

State AFL-CIO spokeswoman Cathy Sherwin said the event will feature a mock "soup kitchen'' and personal stories by local people who are out of work. McCaskill's staff will be presented with petitions signed by 1,500 area supporters of the benefit extension.

Labor and MORE also will register their frustration to the apparent linkage in Washington -- via President Barack Obama's deal with congressional Republicans -- between unemployment benefits and continued tax cuts for wealthy Americans.

"Across the state, jobless workers will come together to remind Sen. McCaskill to listen to the needs of working men and women, instead of Wall Street and corporations," the groups said in a statement issued to promote today's event.

Sherwin said that McCaskill's 2012 battle isn't the only reason that she's the progressives' target. "She's the official most likely to listen to us,'' said Sherwin, citing the anger that labor and its allies already feel toward the state and region's GOP members of Congress -- including Sen.-elect Roy Blunt, R-Mo. -- who have cast votes against extending the unemployment insurance.

McCaskill already has one announced Republican opponent -- former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman -- and at least one other thinking about it: former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo., who was ousted by McCaskill in 2006.

A week ago, McCaskill ran into Talent at an airport and asked him up front about his plans. According to her account on Twitter: "Just ran into Jim Talent at Lambert. Nice friendly conversation. Asked him if it was gonna be a rematch. He said he 'was working through it.' "

Jo Mannies has been covering Missouri politics and government for almost four decades, much of that time as a reporter and columnist at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. She was the first woman to cover St. Louis City Hall, was the newspaper’s second woman sportswriter in its history, and spent four years in the Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau. She joined the St. Louis Beacon in 2009. She has won several local, regional and national awards, and has covered every president since Jimmy Carter. She scared fellow first-graders in the late 1950s when she showed them how close Alaska was to Russia and met Richard M. Nixon when she was in high school. She graduated from Valparaiso University in northwest Indiana, and was the daughter of a high school basketball coach. She is married and has two grown children, both lawyers. She’s a history and movie buff, cultivates a massive flower garden, and bakes banana bread regularly for her colleagues.

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