PITTSBURGH, Oct. 22, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The United Steelworkers (USW) today said Clear Channel Communications made the right decision in removing anonymous billboards designed to intimidate voters and suppress turnout.
The billboards, which warned of prison terms and fines for anyone engaged in voter fraud, began to appear in early October. The signs were financed by a "family foundation" that insisted on remaining anonymous.
"Messages that use fear to deny the most basic rights of U.S. citizens go beyond the bounds of 'free speech' when they seek to undermine our democracy," said USW International President Leo W. Gerard. "These billboards were designed not to educate but to intimidate voters into staying home on Nov. 6."
Clear Channel said the signs, which appeared in Ohio and Wisconsin, violated its policy against anonymous political messages and that it made a mistake in accepting the contract.
"Removing these signs is a good first step," said Fred Redmond, USW International Vice President. "We must continue to work hard over the next two weeks to make sure no eligible voter stays home on Election Day because of intimidation and misinformation."
The USW is a member of the Election Protection Coalition, which opposes voter suppression efforts and sought removal of the signs. The group, which last week launched its own billboards to encourage voter turnout, includes Common Cause, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the National Education Association, the Advancement Project and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.
Clear Channel will remove the signs it owns in Cleveland, Columbus and Milwaukee. Another company, Norton Outdoor, which owns similar boards in the Cincinnati area, has not said whether it will follow suit.
"It is important that we keep the pressure on Norton so all of these offensive messages are removed," said Mike Scarver, the USW's voter protection project coordinator. "Nobody's vote should be denied because of fear-mongering and bullying like this."
The USW represents about 850,000 workers in the United States, Canada and the Caribbean in a wide variety of industries, ranging from glassmaking to mining, paper, steel, tire and rubber to the public sector, service and health care industries.
R.J. Hufnagel: (412) 562-2450
SOURCE United Steelworkers (USW)