DC-37 Union Backs Thompson for Mayor

DC 37 supported Bloomberg in 2005

By Jennifer Millman
|  Thursday, Aug 13, 2009  |  Updated 6:49 PM EDT
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DC-37 Union Backs Thompson for Mayor

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Finally, Bill Thompson gets something to smile about.

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As the clock winds down until the mayoral election, city comptroller William Thompson, the presumptive Democratic nominee, got a major boost last night.

The city's largest municipal union, which endorsed Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2005, has voted to throw its support behind the underdog.

"Bill Thompson is not only an ally in our struggle to protect our members but a champion of the millions of hard-working New Yorkers we serve," DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts said in a statement."

The backing of District Council 37, which represents more than 100,000 primarily non-uniformed city government employees, gives Thompson critical labor support – and deprives Bloomberg of the edge he got in 2005 when the union sided with him.

Traditionally, the union has supported Democrats. But it switched things up a few years ago when it endorsed Bloomberg, then a Republican, because leaders believed the billionaire was likely to blow the weak Democratic candidates out of the water, according to The New York Times

The union's decision to back Thompson this year surprised many, considering all polls indicate Bloomberg is plowing full speed ahead toward re-election and the mayor has given DC 37's workers 4 percent raises two years in a row, despite the bad economy.

But things have gotten increasingly tense between the labor union and the Bloomberg administration over the last few years. Disputes reached a height when the union was considering its endorsement – and Bloomberg didn't help matters yesterday when he told DC 37's executive committee that they would have to "learn to do more with less" because of the recession, according to the Times.

In response, Bloomberg's campaign released a statement saying:  "DC37 opposes pension reform and tier V, mayoral control of schools, and wants the city to hire more employees, even in a time of fiscal crisis. This is their job so we understand their position. But these are clearly not things that the Mayor could agree to, and so it's not surprising that they would endorse Mr. Thompson. The real question is what promises Mr. Thompson made them and how much his promises will cost taxpayers. "

The endorsement marks a huge opportunity for the city comptroller. Bloomberg has already gotten support from 20 public and private-industry labor organizations. Thompson has won backing from 11, but earning the endorsement of the district council may inspire other groups to follow suit.

“It’s an enormous endorsement,” Stuart Appelbaum, president of the city’s retail workers’ union, which has endorsed Thompson, told the Times. “There is a growing feeling that Bill Thompson can win this election.”

There are still a handful of big unions that have yet to choose sides – teachers, firefighters and police among them – and Thompson has been cozying up to them as of late, according to the Times. Despite Bloomberg's job cuts and warnings of possible pension reductions in the future, his generous pay raises to union workers are a plus. 

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