NASHVILLE - Republican gubernatorial hopeful Zach Wamp's criticism of extending unemployment benefits for out-of-work Tennesseans is drawing fire from the head of the Tennessee AFL-CIO Labor Council.
In a teleconference call Tuesday with Tennessee members of the National Federation of Independent Business, the Chattanooga congressman said that if he becomes governor, he, businesses and state lawmakers "must resist ... any more mandates to small business to help the unemployed."
The federal extension of benefits, Wamp said, "is creating a culture of dependence which we do not need. We want people out there scraping and clawing and looking for work and not just sitting back waiting. And so we've got to not allow any more mandates."
State AFL-CIO President Jerry Lee called Wamp's remarks "pretty insensitive" to struggling Tennesseans.
"People are fighting for their lives right now," Lee said. "I think it's six applicants for every job available in the country today. Everybody is trying to get off unemployment. Something's got to sustain these people where they can buy gas to look for a job ... or buy food to keep on the table.
"This idea of people scratching and clawing for jobs is ridiculous," Lee said.
Wamp is seeking the Republican nomination along with Knoxville Mayor Bill Haslam and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey in the Aug. 5 primary election.