The Biggest Loser Was ... SEIU

By Josh Feit August 24, 2009


Greg Nickels, a union man

On Election Day last week, I proclaimed that the health care workers union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), would be the biggest winners of the night because they were poised to help knock out King County Executive candidate Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina). They helped fund a $30,000 independent expenditure ad against him.

Hunter—the state House finance chair (and so a bad guy to labor for passing an all-cuts budget)—came in fifth in last week's election, getting less than 11 percent of the vote and becoming of symbol of just what SEIU and the unions can (and aren't scared to) do to Democrats who buck them.

SEIU head David Rolf told me last week: "Yes, there is a larger message here. Democrats shouldn’t think we won’t call them on it when they vote for a right-wing, all-cuts budget."

But despite helping take out Hunter, I'd like to revise my analysis 180 degress and say this: SEIU (and their labor allies)  lost big on election night. At the city level, in fact, they were the biggest losers.

Mayor Greg Nickels was a diehard union supporter. Forget about your image of Nickels as a pawn to developers. Unions always came first. For example, one of Mayor Nickels' only vetoes was over big hotel developer Richard Hedreen (Nickels shut down council legislation that would have given Hedreen  bonus development rights because Nickels was mad at Hedreen for busting the hotel union.) Nickels  also consistently sided with the unions over developers when it came to industrial lands vs. condo development.

Unions were big Nickels backers this year: SEIU 775, SEIU 925, the King County Labor Council, the carpenters union, the building and construction trade council, the Machinists, the pipe fitters union and the United Food and Commercial Workers 21, all maxed out to Nickels (and UFCW hosted Nickels' election-night party).  And they all endorsed Nickels.

Now Nickels is out, obviously. And the unions are stuck with two guys they have no hold over: 1) T-Mobile executive Joe Mallahan (the unions pushed anti-Mallahan stories during the campaign because of T-Mobile's anti-union record) and 2) Sierra Club renegade Mike McGinn, who has his very own agenda—one that certainly doesn't include the union-job-friendly $4.2 billion tunnel.

I wonder if this has anything to do with the write-in rumors that the Stranger's Dan Savage reported on about state Sen. Ed Murray (D-43).
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