Deval’s dance with labor

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 13, 2006

Labor activists are also keenly aware that Patrick’s wife, Diane, has spent her career fighting on the employer side of the equation. Currently a partner in the labor and employment department of the Ropes & Gray law firm, she “specializes in advising and representing employers” on employment law and collective-bargaining agreements, according to the firm’s Web site.

“Many of us suspect Patrick is far more conservative than people realize,” says one former labor lobbyist.

“He’s an unknown story,” says another local labor leader. “He’s a Clinton centrist. He’ll probably govern from the center.”

Some state labor leaders also say that, early in the campaign, Patrick did not go out of his way to impress them. SEIU 1199 endorsed Reilly in the primary, after asking all the candidates to answer a questionnaire and appear before its board. Patrick phoned in his board appearance, saying he was unable to do it in person.

Meanwhile, Chris Gabrieli got his share of labor endorsements, along with plenty of volunteer help. Ironworkers Local 7, for instance, worked hard for Gabrieli, holding signs and manning phone banks.

But SEIU 1199 went further, spending nearly a quarter-million dollars in independent expenditures on behalf of Reilly, which covered, among other things, salaries and a huge campaign-literature mailing at the end of August. UNITE Here, which represents hotel workers, spent $36,000 on Reilly, including a radio ad just before the primary.

This split among union endorsements partially reflects the fact that labor has become less cohesive in recent years. Unions increasingly disagree on the issues. Immigration, for example, is seen very differently by the unions representing hotel workers and those representing construction workers. And some unions in the high-paid trades, like the electrical workers, disagree with other labor groups’ positions on taxes.

But leaving aside individualissues, many were disposed to sign on early with Reilly because he was considered the inevitable nominee. “Any special-interest group tries to get on board early with a winning candidate, and to be part of the winning campaign,” says veteran lobbyist Judy Meredith. “In this campaign, a lot of interest groups got on board with Tom Reilly early because he looked like a winner.”

Then Patrick won the primary, and everyone swarmed to his table. At least 76 labor unions and workers’ associations donated to the Patrick campaign between his primary win and the general election, according to a Phoenix review of campaign-finance records.

That’s not surprising: regardless of their preference among the three Democrats, most unions preferred any of them to Kerry Healey.

And they were hardly the only ones. Business groups also turned to Patrick; as did state legislators, who transferred thousands from their own campaign committees to Deval’s.

Patrick welcomed the newcomers warmly, of course. But it was the early endorsers who were rewarded with spots on the transition team. Local 509 was one of the few to support Patrick early on, for instance,and its president, Michael Grunko, now sitson the transition-steering committee. So doesKathleen Kelley, past president of the Massachusetts Federation of Teachers, which endorsed Patrick in June. And utility workers’ local 369, electrical workers’ local 1505, and food workers’ local 1445 all endorsed Patrick in the primary, and have representatives on transition committees.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Doug Rubin, Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Teachers Association,  More more >
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