Deval’s dance with labor

By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  December 13, 2006

Other, bigger unions, which helped Patrick later in his campaign, have not been given spots — including thosewho spent large sums of money on independent expenditures. That’s left them fighting for access. “There’s a few sharp elbows” among the interest groups now, Meredith says.

ALL FOR ONE: As Patrick moved to the front of the pack, unions pledged their support, as seen on his campaign Web site.
Watching every move
The inclusion of nine labor representatives on Patrick’s transition team was seen by many as a capitulation to the unions. After all, it contrasted sharply with his treatment of the state legislature, whose members also gave heavily to him during the general election, and whose sway over him is likewisebeing keenly watched. “He didn’t include any legislators on transition working groups, but he included a strong contingent of labor,” Sturgeon says.

But many question how meaningful those working-group appointments are.

For one thing, the labor representatives are a tiny portion of the more than 200 people on Patrick’s transition teams, and are missing from many of the working groups. For example, labor is well represented on the workforce-development working group, buta separate economic-development group is mainly packed with business voices, including three chamber of commerce representatives.

And the working-group chairs and key transition-team leaders are no lefties, beginning with former Republican Gloria Larson and continuing through business leaders such as Ronald Homer of Boston Bank of Commerce. “The transition team overwhelmingly are business types and Republicans,” complains one lobbyist.

Plus, there is increasing concern that the working groups, which are holding dozens of community meetings across the state, are an elaborate dog-and-pony show meant to give the appearance of inclusion, while real decisions are being made within Patrick’s small inner circle.

People who have attended some of the community meetings say they have served largely as forums for progressive activists — including many from labor. At the education meetings, “there has not been a lot on charter schools or accountability,” says Sturgeon.

But others disagree. “The way it’s been presented to us is that the recommendations will be like a job description and policy recommendation for whoever gets placed in those positions, with goals, and methods to get those goals done,” says Mark Erlich, executive secretary of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, who is on the transition team.

But the transition teams have not been in contact with Patrick or key advisors such as John Walsh and Doug Rubin, say several who are close to the process. They are clearly not influencing key appointments, which are being decided before the working groups deliver their reports this Friday.

Indeed, if labor was initially excited about being included in the transition, that mood sunk quickly with the naming of Leslie Kirwan to the critical post of secretary of administration and finance last week.

Kirwan, who worked under Bill Weld, is seen by most as no friend to labor — particularly government employees.

“People were surprised about the selection — they’re nervous about it, and they’re worried about it,” says one person close with labor organizers on Beacon Hill.

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  Topics: Talking Politics , Doug Rubin, Deval Patrick, Leslie Kirwan,  More more >
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