City Hall

Limited Union Backing for McGinn's Jobs Plan

By Erica C. Barnett August 25, 2010

This post has been updated to reflect the fact that the King County Labor Council says it was consulted about the jobs plan prior to this week's press conference by Mayor Mike McGinn, but was  not asked to participate in the press conference.

As we mentioned in Fizz this morning, Service Employees International Union 775 president David Rolf was a somewhat surprising guest at a press conference at which Mayor Mike McGinn announced his jobs plan yesterday---surprising because, with a few exceptions, labor opposed McGinn's election campaign last year Most of the building-trades unions, including the King County Labor Council, supported McGinn's opponent Joe Mallahan because he supported the deep-bore tunnel), and others, including Rolf's SEIU 775, stayed out of the fray.

Asked about his sometimes tense relationship with labor yesterday, McGinn scoffed and called the question "inside political baseball." He continued, "The fact of the matter is we've always relied on and worked with representatives of labor. We had tremendous labor support during the campaign." (McGinn had support from four union locals, compared to Mallahan's overwhelming union support.) "Labor unions are not monolithic; environmentalists are not monolithic. Behind the interests, there are people. The public has made it clear they want [a jobs program]."

This morning, I asked Rolf why his union decided to back McGinn's jobs plan. "I don't think it's accurate to think about labor as a monolith," Rolf said. "With regard to this administration, you've got some unions that will probably never be for anyone who isn't for big construction projects and others where you've got a different set of issues."

Rolf said SEIU didn't support McGinn during last year's campaign because they wanted to focus on the King County Executive race, where Dow Constantine was opposed by "a whacked-out ideologue," Susan Hutchison. "In some ways, both Mallahan and McGinn were people we could work with, whereas it was kind of a good versus evil thing at the county level."

Although McGinn's office says his jobs plan was developed in conjunction with more unions than just SEIU, at least one major union organization, the King County Labor Council, says they were not asked to participate in the press conference. (The KCLC was briefed on the plan during its development, as were several other unions including the building trades union and the maritime trades union. However, union president Dave Freiboth says "it was not really clear that we were doing planning" for the jobs plan during those discussions.) KCLC leader David Freiboth told PubliCola he was surprised to see Rolf on stage next to McGinn, and that "not once" was his group included in the planning process---a seeming snub that could be a reaction to the group's vocal opposition to McGinn last year.

KCLC supported Mallahan because they disagreed with McGinn over the deep-bore tunnel, Freiboth says. "It seemed counterproductive to be opposing a public works project like the viaduct replacement" during an economic recession, Freiboth says. "Public works projects are important to get people back to work."
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