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Unions Differ in 11th CD

Unions Differ in 11th CD


September 28, 2012
By Marc Bussanich, LaborPress City Reporter

Despite being investigated by the feds for questionable campaign fund-raising in 2010, incumbent Congressman Michael Grimm has a 48-38 percent lead over Democratic challenger Mark Murphy, according to a Siena Research Institute poll released on Tuesday, September 25. While public sector unions are backing and supporting Murphy, the building trades are supporting Grimm in his bid to hold onto his seat.

The Center for Responsive Politics lists the Carpenters & Joiners Union, International Union of Operating Engineers, Painters & Allied Trades Union, as well as the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, International Association of Fire Fighters and the AFL-CIO as Grimm’s top campaign contributors.

Adam Haight, a spokesman for the Murphy campaign, noted in an e-mail that SEIU1199, SEIU 32BJ, DC 37, CWA Local 1180 and 1102, Organization of Staff Analysts and the NY Metro Area Postal Workers Union, as well as the Working Families Party, have endorsed Mr. Murphy. In addition, Murphy picked up the endorsement of RWDSU on Thursday, September 27. In a press release, RWDSU’s president, Stuart Appelbaum, wrote,

“The way Grimm has cheated working people and the middle class is scandalous. When he owned a restaurant, he committed wage theft by paying employees below the minimum wage…Grimm needs to go.”

Steven Greenberg, a Siena College pollster, in response to why was Grimm’s ongoing federal investigation not a question asked of voters, said, “We do not get into local issues. Voters can factor that [Grimm’s political problems] in. To the extent that voters are aware of it, presumably impacts one way or another, or doesn’t impact their feelings about the candidate.”

But Greenberg wasn’t surprised by the findings.

“I’ve given up being surprised by our poll findings, since generally when I predict what the outcome will be, I’m wrong 80 percent of the time.”

The Murphy Institute for Worker Education and Labor Studies recently released a study that reveals “the population of Staten Island has the highest union density levels in the city,” but yet Grimm is currently ahead by 10 percentage points.

However, Greenberg noted that Staten Island is a very different place from the rest of the city.

“This is a district, while it has an overwhelmingly Democratic enrollment, these are not Upper West Side or Upper East Side Democrats. They’re more conservative Democrats, Reagan-type Democrats who helped Rudolph Giuliani win two terms as mayor.”

When asked if he was surprised by Grimm’s lead over Murphy given the high union density levels in Staten Island, Brian McDonnell, political and legislative director for AFSCME in New York, said, “Grimm has picked up some union support. But we think Murphy is much better on the issues and that’s why we’re supporting him.”

In this election cycle, New York may well be the state that proves to be the unexpected House battleground. McDonnell noted that Nancy Pelosi would be a better Speaker of the House than John Boehner.

“We’ve had two years of gridlock under Speaker Boehner, taking this country to a financial cliff and [Michael] Grimm has gone along with that, and our country can’t afford that kind of Congressional leadership,” said McDonnell.

McDonnell also noted that AFSCME’s two biggest city affiliates, District Council 37 and District Council 1707, which have 14,000 members living in the 11th CD, will be out in force on Election Day.

“We’re optimistic. We’re going to have a very large voter operation on that day, and that’ll put Murphy over the top.”

When asked why AFSCME and the building trades could not be unanimous in their support for a candidate in the 11th CD, McDonnell responded, “We brought both candidates in and Mark Murphy was clearly better on the issues.”

Jack Kittle, IUPAT DC 9’s political director, was also asked about the lack of unanimity in the 11th CD. “The building trades are very different than any other sector. We don’t have a job to go to every day. So, necessarily, building trades’ locals have to think a little bit differently than public employees.”

The two most important issues for the building trades is the preservation of Davis-Bacon prevailing wages and project labor agreements, which have been under increasing attack by Republicans from other districts around the country.

“In the case of Michael Grimm, Chris Gibson and Peter King, we can count on them voting the right way for Davis-Bacon and PLAs. I don’t think Grimm is an ideologue. While he didn’t initially support us, we took him on a tour of a private sector PLA job site and he understood that the project would not have been built because the banks were not lending money in the economy that prevailed at the time. Because of that PLA, the banks released the money and the project is now finished,” said Kittle.

Asked if the campaign was worried about the Siena poll, Mr. Murphy’s spokesman said, “After months of scandals and indictments, Siena’s poll brings more grim news for Congressman Grimm. Eight months ago, he was widely perceived to be the clear winner—48 percent is way below where he was projected to be. With Obama doing well in the district, there will be a bump for the Democrats, and that is even more bad news for Grimm.”

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