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Union members stand and cheer

January 20, 2009 |  1:41 pm

Alice Singleton, a semi-retired African American pediatrician, woke up before dawn to drive from Brentwood to Burbank for the Los Angeles Federation of Labor’s inaugural breakfast. A member of the Union of American Physicians and Dentists, Singleton wanted a front-row seat.

"I didn’t want to miss anything," said Singleton, who volunteered during the Obama campaign. "I cried the night the results came in." Singleton, who still sees patients once a week, said she often holds the Obamas up as a model for the children she treats.

CNN coverage was projected onto an enormous screen set on a stage adorned with balloons and flags and a life-size cutout of Barack Obama. Behind the stage hung an enormous American flag and the Hope poster of Obama.

"Obama just inspires me a lot," said Maddie Cordon, a fourth-grader at Arroyo Elementary School in South Pasadena, who attended the event with her dad, Carlos Cordon, an organizer with the longshore workers  union. "When I see him, I see that I shouldn’t give up."

The diverse, politically active group of senior citizens, students, port workers and union leaders stood when the speakers said stand, cheered when they heard something they liked and booed when they saw someone they didn’t — as they did when Dick Cheney came on the screen for the first time.

They gave a rock-star welcome to Obama, standing, cheering and waving flags as if they were in the presence of the man himself.

"We’re there in spirit," said Singleton.

Nick Rios, 61, a member of the seafarers union, who made calls during the Obama campaign until he lost his voice, marveled at the crowd.

"Wow, there’s a lot of people here," he said, eating his eggs and biscuits while standing at the back of the hall, a sound studio the size of a barn.

Julia Botello, 83, came to the event even though she doesn’t speak English. The Guadalajara native said she left 11 of her 12 children behind when she came to the United States in 1967, working in factories and  as a housekeeper among other jobs to make ends meet. Her children have since joined her and all have become citizens — and all voted for Obama.

"Just like we came out to elect him, we will come out to hold him accountable," said Botello. She wants him to reform immigration policy, normalize the status of the undocumented and help turn the economy around, so that jobs are plenty.

"When there’s work, everything else falls into place," said Botello, a member of the community group ACORN, which is closely allied with labor interests. "Those of us who came here, came here to work. We didn’t come for handouts."

-- Evelyn Larrubia

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