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Wednesday, June 17,2009

Labor unions of love

Local unions silent on the mayoral race have begun endorsing City Council candidates.

by Not Defined
Local labor unions have been handing out endorsements recently for the Lansing City Council race, surprising some by endorsing a Republican for a Council seat and so far leaving incumbent Mayor Virg Bernero without an endorsement.

Bernero is batting zero with local union endorsements while At-Large Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Carol Wood has picked up several, surprising some because of Bernero’s efforts to save the auto industry and the blue collar worker. Plus, two major labor groups — the Greater Lansing Labor Council and the United Auto Workers Region 1-C CAP Council — have decided to withhold mayoral endorsement for now.


However, UAW spokesman Bruce McAttee said that the union is still conducting interviews and a decision could come between now and the primary or after.

"The mayoral process just isn't finished," he said.


At any rate, both the Council and the UAW have come through with endorsements in the nonpartisan City Council races.

The Council is only endorsing two City Council candidates, At-Large Councilman Brian Jeffries and Fourth Ward candidate Tom Truscott. The UAW followed similarly, endorsing Jeffries, Truscott, Second Ward Councilwoman Sandy Allen and At-Large Councilwoman Kathie Dunbar.

Council President Paul Hufnagel said that the group is only endorsing two candidates so far because a majority of the members voted for them. The Council is composed of 40 members and a twothirds majority is required for an endorsement. Until that majority is reached for any particular candidate, there will be no endorsement.

It may be a little surprising that the Council has only endorsed two candidates, and won’t endorse a mayoral candidate because it couldn’t reach a majority. It’s also surprising that the UAW hasn't yet endorsed in the mayoral race with Bernero on cable news virtually every week sticking up for autoworkers — one source said that the union should be concerned about the message it would be sending to not endorse the mayor, and expected the UAW to eventually come out for Bernero.

Perhaps more surprising is the UAW's endorsement of Republican Truscott, whose son, John, was a press secretary to Gov. John Engler, whose three terms in office still set the teeth of many Democrats on edge. John Truscott is a leading GOP strategist.

Unlike his son, Tom Truscott is not famous for being a Republican but rather for his work in the community and as a famed football coach at Lansing’s Sexton High School. (Truscott also picked up the endorsement of the Lansing School Employees Association.). But many seem to know him as the "father of John."


"It's significant, and surprising to me, quite frankly,” Todd Cook, head of local political consulting firm Main Street Solutions,
said. "Anyone who says they saw this one coming is full of it."


As far
as the influence of the endorsements, Cook says they are significant,
but whether they change the projected Jessica Yorko versus Chris
Lewless race for the Fourth Ward in November depends on how much work
the unions put into the endorsements.



McAttee bristled at the
idea that only Democrats would get a union's endorsement.


"Obviously
there was discussion around that — but he is not John Truscott, he is
John Truscott's father," McAttee said.


He also pointed out Truscott's
experience as a Michigan Education Association member who worked on the
union's bargaining team and negotiated, by Truscott's own count, some
15 contracts.

Hufnagel agreed, mentioning Truscott's time as a
union officer and longtime support of union issues.


What it boils down
to is what a candidate can do, and the Council is of one opinion about
Truscott, and that is that he can make a "big impact" on the city's
future, and that's what the union wants, not just a Democrat


"It's not
about a party with me," Truscott said. "The UAW, I believe they have
such a large part to play in Lansing and Michigan — you don't have to
be a Dem to support them."


Truscott says his campaign is focused on
bringing diverse groups of people together to solve problems, and given
the state and city's economic woes, there's no room for politicking.

"My
whole career that's what I've done — as a coach, as a teacher — I
brought diverse groups together. I just work to get things done,” he
said.



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