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Framing “Fragmented” Union Endorsements in NYC Mayor’s Race As a Failure Is an Unfair Double Standard

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Articles are cropping up around New York which address the labor movement vis-a-vis the race to replace Michael Bloomberg as mayor. Many of these pieces seem to be reveling in the fact that the labor movement is not unified behind one candidate as if this somehow displays a weakness or poses a serious problem. This is alarmingly ironic considering when the opposite is true — when there is an obvious union favorite in a given election — the endorsee is often described as being “in Big Labor’s pocket” or somehow financially beholden to the unforgivable treachery of actually caring about workers’ rights.

Here’s a new example of this unfair frame, via The New York World:

The city is home to hundreds of unions: public and private, construction and service, skilled and nonskilled trades. Each has its own interest in the outcome of the mayoral race — and unlike in some past campaigns, the labor movement is fragmented, thus far having failed to coalesce behind one candidate.

Oh my, they have failed. They have failed to fit the easy-to-tell story of simplified left wing nuts wastefully spending their members’ hard earned dues money on the obvious, anti-business choice. But, in New York, everything is complicated. The population is wildly diverse, the size and influence of different unions varies widely, and the number of politicians running around making friends over the past two decades — surely many of these relationships span that time — is numerous. It is just plain interesting to see how organized labor shakes out in a race like this and these organizations should be applauded for retaining focus on the needs of their specific members.

All in all, The New York World piece supplies great detail in describing why and to what extent each of the major players in the NYC union landscape will be supporting different candidates. If you can avoid the inherent union jabs in a piece like this — see the “claimed” versus “reported” membership numbers in the chart above, for instance — then you can get some decent info to pass around.


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