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Sullivan apologizes for slavery comment

By Bonney Bowman 8:08 PM May 7, 2014

Mayor Dan Sullivan issued an apology Wednesday after comparing union dues to slavery.

Sullivan made the remark during the Lieutenant Governor Candidate Forum on Monday.

He issued the apology after community groups called the remark grossly out of touch, insensitive and sarcastic.

KTVA asked Sullivan to clarify his comment.

He said he was referring to economic slavery, saying when someone is required to pay union dues as a condition of having a job, he thinks it qualifies as a form of slavery.

The NAACP doesn’t agree. President Wanda Laws says no political issue compares to the period in American history when hundreds of thousands of people suffered in humiliation and degradation.

“That’s America’s greatest sin. That’s what people relate slavery to. Not with money, not with housing, not with social security, not with health care, not with any other issue that it is compared to in our political discourse today,” Laws said.

Sullivan says he realizes it’s a hot-button term, but thinks it has meaning beyond the historical context.

“I appreciate their sensitivity on that and I’m sensitive to it too, but again, I think the term can be used in terms of economic restriction on freedom, which is what, when you’re required to pay somebody else to get a job, your freedom is restricted economically,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan said Wednesday morning he didn’t think the comment warranted an apology. Later that afternoon, however, he did apologize if the comparison offended anyone.

The Anchorage Central Labor Council joined the NAACP in demanding an apology, calling the comment inflammatory rhetoric.

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