WASHINGTON — They are not public officials but they used to play some on television.
So in the way that art imitates life and vice versa, Martin Sheen and two of his former "aides" who served in "The West Wing" were the draws for a rally this morning to promote the union-backed "card check" bill in Congress.
At the event held in a high-ceiling caucus room in the Senate’s Russell office building, the organized labor group American Rights at Work announced that students and grassroots workers will talk up the legislation over the next several weeks in a handful of states including Maine, North Dakota, Louisiana, California and Arkansas.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., cheered on the effort, and several workers spoke as well. But the stars were Sheen and fellow actors Bradley Whitford and Richard Schiff.
Sheen of course played President Jed Bartlet in the TV series. Schiff was his communications director and Whitford was White House deputy chief of staff.
Although "The West Wing" went off the air in 2006, the characters clearly are enduring. Sheen was introduced as the "former acting president of the United States." Whitford referenced Rahm Emanuel, the real-life White House chief of staff.
"But I was in a network White House so I can’t swear," Whitford joked. Emanuel is notoriously salty.
After Boxer gave a few remarks, Whitford returned to the microphone.
"Ah, the awkward segue back to fake politics," he said.
The performers, whose real-life activism is no act, spoke for the Employee Free Choice Act, the hotly debated legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize into unions.
Whitford said opposition to the bill stems from "the misguided assumption that to be pro-union is to be anti-business, that unions exist to create conflict with management."
"Not only is the Employee Free Trade Act fair to workers, it is good for the economy," Whitford argued. "Workers want good jobs and jobs that will be around for a long time. They have a huge incentive to make their businesses as successful as possible."