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Sunday | September 07, 2003

Labor endorsement update

From a labor source, received Friday:

See AP wire story--commentary follows:
One of the nation's largest unions will wait until November to decide which Democrat to endorse in next year's presidential race.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, said Friday the most important criteria will be finding the candidate with the best chance of winning the White House.

"We are ready to support a Democrat who supports our issues most of the time, if not all of the time, but who is electable, who is capable of defeating George Bush," McEntee said.

Most of the nine presidential hopefuls will meet with the organization's executive board next week, with each making a final push for support from the 1.4 million-member union, one of the largest, fastest-growing and politically active in the AFL-CIO.

McEntee hinted earlier this summer that he favored Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, but the union reportedly is taking a second look at the field to judge the strength of Howard Dean's surge in early polls in New Hampshire and Iowa.

Prez McEntee had some encouraging words for Kerry--it sounds like he's is waiting to see if Kerry's poll #'s pick up in Iowa, and especially NH for Kerry, so that he can deliver AFSCME for him. Looking at situation from where he is now, as opposed to where he was in the spring, delay is actually good for Kerry, as he was losing ground to Dean within the union--now he gets last chance to make a comeback. Very bad news for Gephardt--means that AFSCME obviously opposes a full Federation endorsement of Gephardt in mid-October (or, of course, an endorsement of Gephardt this week), and will fight such a move, almost certainly dooming it.

Delay also good for Dean--he still has a chance to get the endorsement if he continues to blow Kerry out of the water in both fundraising and the early state polling. If not, AFSCME delay still disrupts Gephardt key strategic goal of obtaining full AFL-CIO endorsement--and thus helps Dean.

SEIU is a different story than AFSCME--Despite what I said last week, I now think there's a slightly better than even chance that it endorses Dean this week.

Keep this in mind, as we look to the possible SEIU endorsement decision this week--SEIU's two largest and most powerful locals are, of course 1199 in NYC, headed by Dennis Rivera, and, less known to some, local 250, in the SF bay area--between them, they represent about 20% of SEIU's total membership--300,000 or so--and while Rivera is nationally known inside and outside the labor movement as a political and union heavyweight, Roselli is a major player both inside the SEIU power structure, and within California democratic politics.

Both of these large locals, independent of the parent national union, and reflecting their membership and communties, came out early against the Iraqi war--Dean's position on this, as opposed to labor issues, of course, distinguishes him from Gephardt and Kerry--I'm not saying that these tough, pragmatic leaders would base their entire endorsement decision on the war, but it obviously gave Dean a leg up--once he showed he was conversant on health care, of course, had good labor bona fides, in general, and now has shown he's the front runner, everything began to fall into place--but, like so much else, it probably started for them with his anti-war position. ABC's The Note reported on Wednesday that Rivera will be holding a "personal" fundraiser for Dean on September 23rd (although Rivera denies that means he is endorsing Dean or that SEIU is necessarily endorsing Dean). With Dean strategically campaigning at local 250 over the weekend--and holding a press conference with Roselli--indicating a level of coordination and support beyond merely providing a platform to speak to the membership--the coveted SEIU endorsement may not be far behind. At very least, local 250 may well independently endorse Dean which, given the size of that local and its influence in California politics, itself would be significant.

In summary, Dean's apparent cultivation of Rivera and Roselli is a brilliant move--in that union, they have independent powerbases, separate from Andy Stern, yet they would also have to agree with any decision to endorse a particular candidate--at worst, it seems that Dean may have the big bookend SEIU health care locals working for him in the NY and California primaries--at best, those local leaders are coordinating with President Stern to deliver a stunning, perhaps nomination delivering endorsement to him--if, in fact, Stern sees this as an opportunity to crown a winner, and thus ratify his status as the most powerful figure in the American labor movement (and an increasing powerful figure in the Democratic party) -- a description that McEntee would contest -- or whether he prefers a more cautious, political approach, at this point, and, like McEntee, merely wants to hold the line against a Federation endorsement of Gephardt.

And then there's this update I received last night:
Sal Rosselli, SEIU Local 250 president, called Dean "our kind of presidential candidate" -- who, as a physician, understood the needs of health care workers and patients alike.

"We need to bring Dr. Dean's expertise and compassion to the White House," the union leader said. "Dr. Dean has the fire and the knowhow to turn this country around."

Sounds like an endorsement to me--may be a preview of what the national does later this week. Rosselli has the clout to issue his own endorsements, but he wouldn't do it in a vacuum--DC SEIU headquarters would know what he's doing. Again, local 250 is probably the second most largest and most influential local union in SEIU--85,000 strong, a powerhouse in Northern California politics.

Posted September 07, 2003 08:52 AM | Comments (73)


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