One of the country's largest unions has been hit by a wave of hostile calls and even death threats from people upset with its involvement in town-hall health care debates.
The Service Employers International Union was, as one aide put it, "deluged" with calls on Friday after several conservative media outlets accused the organization of trying to assault demonstrators who had showed up to protest Obama's health care agenda. Making it even scarier for union employees, the address of the union's St. Louis headquarters was mentioned on air by conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh.
Callers who reached both the front desk and the communications department compared the union officials to Nazis, union aides say. On Twitter, organizers of the town hall protest urged people to take pictures and write down the license plate numbers of attending SEIU officials. More alarming than anything else, angry callers and protesters pledged to take up arms against the union.
"If ACORN/SEIU attends these meetings for disruptive purposes, and you have a license to carry....carry," read one tweet.
"I suggest you tell your people to calm down, act like American citizens, and stop trying to repress people's First Amendment rights," one caller warned. "That, or you all are gonna come up against the Second Amendment."
The union had actually put up a petition on Thursday for its organizers and members to attend these town hall events and "honor the long-standing American tradition of town hall meetings and public forums to allow citizens to participate in our democracy." Things got a bit hairy during the evening, however, when the SEIU helped turn away people at a forum in Tampa Bay, Florida, and a near riot ensued. Similarly, in St. Louis, an SEIU staffer was arrested after a scuffle ensued with protesters at a town hall event with Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.).
The SEIU wasn't the only Obama ally receiving threats on Friday. An official of the AFL-CIO, which has pledged to counter conservative protests at these town hall events across the country, said that union received angry emails throughout the day as well -- mostly accusations that it was promoting communism and socialism.