Unions announce endorsements

New Haven’s three major labor unions recently announced their endorsements in today’s aldermanic and mayoral elections. But since several of the endorsed candidates are running unopposed in today’s elections, some labor leaders have turned their attention to the impending race for leadership of the Board of Aldermen.

Mayor John DeStefano Jr. received endorsements for reelection from Local 34, Local 35 and Service Employees International Union District 1199. In the aldermanic races, SEIU endorsed Jackie James of Ward 3, Michael Smart of Ward 8, Joseph Jolly of Ward 14, Al Paolillo of Ward 17, Alfreda Edwards of Ward 19 and Sergio Rodrigeuz of Ward 26, all Democrats. Locals 34 and 35 did not formally endorse aldermanic candidates, but Local 35 President Bob Proto said the union also supports James, Smart and Edwards, whom Proto called “folks that have always been there for us.”

Most of the aldermen whom the unions endorsed are supporters of current Board of Aldermen President Jorge Perez, who is facing a challenge for the position by Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield. The January election of the Board of Aldermen president will determine not only the next leader of the board, but also the successor to DeStefano should the mayor win next year’s gubernatorial race.

Goldfield said he thinks he will have the aldermanic support necessary to become president after today’s polls have closed.

“If the expected results come out as I hope they will, then I’m very confident I’ll have the votes,” Goldfield said.

SEIU spokesman Bill Meyerson said his union supports Perez’s bid for the aldermanic presidency, but the union did not ask aldermanic candidates regarding the two presidential contenders before making their endorsements. Some of SEIU’s endorsed candidates, including Jolly, are Goldfield supporters. Meyerson said the decisions regarding endorsements were made based on which candidates asked for endorsements and on those candidates’ historical support for SEIU unionization at Yale-New Haven Hospital.

“These candidates asked for our help, and because of their record, we agreed,” Meyerson said. “These candidates have a record of standing up for the issues of concern to our members … They called on Yale-New Haven Hospital to sit down with their workers to work out a fair process for workers to choose to unionize, [and] they have been strong supporters of a community benefits agreement for the city.”

Edwards, who has the endorsement of SEIU and the unofficial support of Local 35, said she has always been a strong supporter of the unions and wanted their support in her campaign against Charles Pillsbury, a Green Party candidate whose name is on the ballot but who has not been campaigning actively.

“I’ve always been a union person,” Edwards said. “Charlie said he was running, so you don’t underestimate anyone.”

Jolly, an incumbent who is being challenged by a Republican candidate, said the endorsement has mostly “demonstrative” value as not many SEIU employees live in his ward. Still, he considers the SEIU endorsement an important indicator of his commitment to resolving the controversy that has dogged the issue of unionization within Yale-New Haven Hospital.

Proto said his union’s support for James, Smart and Rodriguez stems from their record of support for Local 35, particularly during its strike two years ago.

“Our culture is to help out the folks that have always been there for us,” he said.

Proto also said Local 35 supports Perez for board president and hopes to see him retain his seat in January.

“Jorge has been a strong ally of ours, and we don’t turn our back on our allies,” he said. “We think he should remain in that position.”

Elections for mayor and the Board of Aldermen are being held today. Current Democratic Alderwoman Rebecca Livengood ’07 and independent challenger Nick Shalek ’05 are competing for the position of Ward 1 alderman, while Joyce Chen ’01 and Rev. Drew King are running unopposed for reelection in Wards 2 and 22, respectively.

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