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Inside the New York City Central Labor Council’s Endorsement Process

New York, NY – The New York City Central Labor Council [NYCCLC] is a non-profit labor membership organization devoted to supporting, advancing and advocating for the working people of New York City. As the nation’s largest regional labor federation, the NYCCLC brings together 300 local unions from every trade, occupation, public and private sector of the New York economy. The represents 1.3 million workers, including teachers, truck drivers, operating engineers, nurses, construction workers, electricians, firefighters, retail workers, janitors, train operators, bakers, and many more. 

NYCCLC Political Director Lucia Gomez.

The NYCCLC also includes more than one million registered voter households across New York City. On October 5, the organization announced its endorsements for the 2021 New York City General Election. The endorsements include 47 candidates for City Council and five for borough president.

“The NYCCLC is the largest and broadest labor coalition in the city, and we continue to engage more than a million voting households through our member-to-member outreach in support of endorsed candidates in 2021,” said NYC CLC President Vincent Alvarez. “The candidates we’re endorsing…have shown that they have what it takes to win and to take on the enormous challenges ahead on behalf of working families in New York City. We look forward to working with our affiliates to turn out our members to elect candidates who will work with us to revive hard-hit industries, protect jobs and critical city services, and build a resilient economy that works for all working people.”

The NYCCLC also endorsed Eric Adams for Mayor, Jumaane Williams for public advocate and Brad Lander for comptroller. The full list of general election endorsements can be viewed here.

LaborPress had a chance to sit down with NYCCLC Political Director Lucia Gomez to find out more about the organization’s screening process and more. Afterwards, we have a few words from Council Member Justin Brannan, a proud labor supporter and a candidate who has been through the process himself.

LP: What is the NYCCLC screening process like?

LG: For the mayoral [race], we started off with six candidates and we brought them in to speak with our executive board, which is 39-40 people, and [President] Vinnie Alvarez and [Secretary-Treasurer] Janella Hinds. Then we did a second round of conversations with our broader delegates. We gave them about eight candidates – [Andrew] Yang was not in the race when there were six, and then Diane Morales was added. Then we surveyed the executive board to see what they endorsed. 

Some organizations will not endorse in any race; we encourage them to endorse. We want them to weigh in on our process. We issue endorsements based on two-thirds endorsement – two-thirds of our board has to endorse one candidate.

LP: What about City Council endorsements?

LG: So many candidates didn’t know about the CLC. We held a Labor 101 two-hour conversation. They heard about the labor movement. We broke down the organization and why it happens, the organization’s dynamics and diversity, labor law, etc. At the end of the day, we’re not just an endorsement body. [There’s the] engagement in politics – there’re many unions, so it’s important.

We ended up doing what we called ‘pre-screening 101,’ a process that involved 203 candidates and 17 workshops from the end of September through November, at different times of the day [to accommodate different schedules]. [Candidates] had to also submit a questionnaire. We wanted to hear their priorities. We got a diverse list of responses, then gave them rapid-fire ‘yes or no’ questions.

A lot of our process happens at the same time or a little before our affiliates. September 2020 was the first time we went through pre-screening. We thought it was important because this time, so many people were running. We wanted to get to know these people in a better way.

LP: Historically, who has been the greatest disappointment?

LG: I can’t say there have been any disappointments. People can be pretty adamant about who they are. They represent their district pretty well.

LP: Who has been among the best?

LG: A highlight has been [Brooklyn DA] Eric Gonzalez, who stuck through our two-hour workshop – even though he knew we wouldn’t make an endorsement. Also, Gale Brewer, who has a long history with labor.

LP: What about Eric Adams?

LG: Typically, we don’t make Mayoral primary endorsements. The last one was with [Mayor David]Dinkins. Our affiliates are all over the place. With Adams, after he won the primary a lot of unions lined up behind him. He always stated he was a proud union member. His core values – that was the highlight. The consensus was where our affiliates wanted to be [with Adams], and that’s where the CLC went. 

Council Member Justin Brannan [D-43rd District] won the support of organized labor on his quest to win public office. LP also asked him about the NYCCLC’s endorsement process.

I truly believe there are very few prerequisites for running for office. The qualifications I care about are things like empathy, a commitment to the communities you represent, and a willingness to fight like hell for what’s right. I’m not a lawyer, I never took a poli-sci class. There is no standard path. I think, in a lot of ways, we’d be better off with more elected officials coming from more grounded, working class backgrounds.

Speaking of qualifications—I think union support is a very strong indicator that a candidate is running for the right reasons, and I’ve been beyond proud to be the union-backed candidate in each of my primary and general election races for City Council thus far. Unions represent fighting for the little guy in the purest form American politics has ever seen, and I think any candidate who earns a union’s trust is always better off for it.

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