September 11, 2013
By Steven Wishnia
Despite backing from powerful labor unions like Local 32BJ and the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Workers Union, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn finished a distant third in the Democratic mayoral primary, winning about 15 percent of the vote.
RWDSU President Stuart Appelbaum praised Quinn for being an “effective progressive” and running a “very substantive campaign,” saying he liked what front-runner Bill de Blasio says but he liked what Quinn has done, particularly the Council’s passing of a bill guaranteeing many workers in the city paid sick days.
Still, he said, Quinn’s association with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, pushing through the bill to let him run for a third term, hurt her—“especially this last weekend, when he said outrageous things about the city and what we should be celebrating.” The mayor called de Blasio a racist for spotlighting his black wife and multiracial children, and said the city would be better off with more “Russian billionaires.”
“We’re taking a step forward from Mike Bloomberg,” Applebaum said.
Hector Figueroa, president of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which put more than 7,000 volunteers out on primary day, had a similar take. “We are a union,” he said. “If voters are saying that income inequality is the number-one problem in New York, that is something we can embrace.” He was more cheered by the success of candidates the union backed in down-ballot races, including Scott Stringer for comptroller, Letitia James leading for public advocate, and Corey Johnson and Carlos Menchaca winning City Council nominations.
Scott Sommer, the United Auto Workers’ New York area director, said Quinn “has always been there for workers.” In last spring’s strike by legal-services lawyers, he said, “she made it clear to the bosses that they were going to lose their money” if they didn’t settle, threatening to switch the city’s contract for legal services to a union provider.
Quinn’s support for Bloomberg’s third term did hurt her with some voters, he acknowledged. On the other hand, he added, “a lot of the people who complain about the third term didn’t back Bill Thompson four years ago.”