Seattle Mayor Ed Murray (center) and SEIU 775 president David Rolf (second from right). Image courtesy of Generation Progress.

In a letter sent out yesterday to local officials, several SEIU leaders urged them to back childcare workers' unions' pre-kindergarten ballot measure over the city's---or at least abstain from taking sides:

We encourage each of you to join us in supporting Proposition 1A. Or, if you find the political division too difficult - please take the high road by remaining neutral.

The letter was signed by president Karen Hart (SEIU Local 925: childcare & education workers)---no surprise, since SEIU 925 is the primary backer of the measure (along with AFT). Hart was joined by comrades Sergio Salinas (SEIU Local 6: janitors & others), and Diane Sosne (SEIU Healthcare 1199NW).

Oh yeah: And SEIU Healthcare 775NW leader David Rolf. This makes sense (why wouldn't SEIU 775 back SEIU 925's measure?), except that it puts him at odds with his ally Mayor Ed Murray. By endorsing Prop 1A over Prop 1B, Rolf has sided against the city's pre-K plan---a plan which Murray has called "the most important thing that I will ever do as mayor."

Rolf backed Murray in his race against former Mayor Mike McGinn, giving Murray some much-needed labor cred, and the two worked together to push through Seattle's recent, and groundbreaking, $15 minimum wage deal. (See Josh's feature article detailing the many strange bedfellows who collaborated on the deal.) The pair (plus pro-minimum-wage capitalist Nick Hanauer) recently made Politico's list of stalemate-breaking "thinkers, doers and dreamers," and they also shared a panel on raising the minimum wage at the Center for American Progress.

With SEIU squaring off against the city over pre-K measures, though, Rolf and Murray are on opposite sides of the contentious ballot race, caught in a larger intra-progressive tension that has the potential to sow some nasty, longer-term divisions in Seattle. This may explain the 'play nice' language in SEIU's letter, which---echoing a longstanding theme in the Prop 1A campaign---acknowledges that "both initiatives are good for kids" while urging leaders to back labor's side. As SEIU 775 spokesperson Jackson Holtz told us:

There currently is a lot of pressure on elected officials to pick a side. SEIU is asking these electeds to stay neutral so as to not form divisions among the progressive movement.

Unless, of course, they want to back Prop 1A.

The race between Proposition 1A (primarily backed by early childcare and education workers' unions) and Proposition 1B (primarily backed by city officials) has been on since the city council voted in June to run the two measures on November's ballot in competition with each other, rather than side-by-side. Erica has written a primer on the differences between the two measures, and I've got a piece on the speculative dispute over Prop 1A's costs.

To be fair, Prop 1B (the city plan) has garnered a couple of union endorsements. According to its campaign website, Prop 1B is favored by IUOE Local 609 (non-teaching school workers), Seattle Fire Fighters IAFF Local 27, and most notably, the King County Labor Council. But next to that short list is a much stronger showing from current and former city, county, and state officials giving their blessing to the city's plan.

 Prop 1A has a long list of endorsements from unions and early childcare workers, teachers, and providers. They also have two state senators: Maralyn Chase (D-32, Shoreline, Edmonds) and Bob Hasegawa (D-11, SE Seattle).

UPDATE: As one of our commenters pointed out below, the 34th District Democrats, in their own words, "took a strong stand supporting universal pre-school in Seattle" by endorsing Prop 1B on Sept. 10th.

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