In 2007, a truly terrible thing happened in Philadelphia. We elected an anti-union mayor. How did it happen?
According to union leader John Dougherty, it was because the city’s labor unions were split over whom to endorse. As a result, Michael Nutter slipped up the middle and got himself elected.
We’ve had hell to pay ever since. Not that Nutter is as bad as Scott Walker, the union-busting governor of Wisconsin. Oh, wait! Nutter is that bad,
according to Pete Matthews, head of the District Council 33, who has taken to calling the mayor the “Scott Walker of the East.”
It’s not as though Nutter is as bad as that Republican troglodyte Gov. Corbett. Oh, wait! He is that bad, according to Jerry Jordan, head of the teachers union, who ran a series of TV ads saying, in effect, that Nutter was Corbett’s pawn.
It’s not as if Nutter’s is seeking union concessions that would result in the deaths of innocent women and children in terrible fires. Oh, wait! That’s exactly what he was accused of by Bill Gault, until recently head of the city’s Firefighters Union.
At any rate, Nutter is not the kind of mayor the city’s union leaders want. Not at all.
So, they are working to unite in 2115 and prevent another Nutter-like candidate from being elected.
According to Sean Collins Walsh of the Daily News, Dougherty, head of the electricians union, has been holding a series of luncheon meetings with a Who’s Who of Philadelphia labor to get them to unite behind an agreed-to candidate.
“It’s a think tank that turns into a ‘do tank,’” Dougherty told Walsh. “It’s not a matter of if we’re going to be all together; it’s a matter of who we’re going to be all together behind.”
Doc’s syntax may be a little rocky, but you get the point.
When Doc speaks, people listen, even if they have trouble understanding what he says. His IBEW is perhaps the most politically active union in the city, a generous giver (mostly) to Democratic candidates that can unleash a (mostly phantom) army of electricians on Election Day.
Doc has a point, though. Thanks to our campaign contribution law, the days of fat-cat big givers are over. Personal contributions are limited to $2,900 in election years. Political Action Committees are limited to a max of $11,500.
But, Doc’s union is one of 25+ in the Building and Construction Trades Council. If each directs $11,500 to a favored candidate, it adds up. If all the unions work together, they can direct a considerable amount of cash to a favored candidate. In this new world, Doc is not only a big giver, he is a big bundler.
A couple of points should be made here.
One. Only on the union Fantasy Island that is Philadelphia could Michael Nutter even remotely be considered anti-union. Nutter is a mainstream Democrat with predictable pro-union views. What he has done, in his role of mayor of a city of 1.5 million people, is to seek concessions from city employees and teachers in contract talks in the name of preserving the city’s scant resources.
That is not a treasonable offense, not in most other jurisdictions in the United States of America. Here it is. Anyone who enunciates a slight variation in the orthodoxy is considered a heretic. You are either 100 percent for the unions or you are 100 percent against them. To quote the immortal Monty Python, no one expects the Spanish Inquisition! But, we’ve got it.
Two. I thought that we, the people, would select our next mayor, through the electoral process. I was unaware our next mayor would be, as it were, pre-elected by union leaders. If they do unite behind someone, perhaps—in the interest of saving time and money—we should just move directly to the swearing-in ceremony.
Three. Is it possible—and I hesitate even to suggest this—that if the unions unite behind one candidate a number of voters will say to themselves: “Well, I won’t vote for him. He’s just a pawn of the unions!” Not that there is anything wrong with being a pawn of the unions, mind you. I’m just saying that folks may wonder about the independence of such a candidate. Would he give away the store if elected? Would he bestow sweetheart contracts on the municipal unions? Would he have to put his cajones in a blind trust once he took office?
If a guy like Nutter, who is probably 94 percent pro-union, is labeled an anti-union heretic, how pro-union do you have to be to pass the union litmus test? Will 98 percent do? One hundred percent? One hundred ten percent?
For the record, according to the Daily News, the candidates most favored by the unions are Darrell Clarke and Alan Butkowitz, neither of whom has officially declared their candidacy for mayor. They have time; the Democratic primary isn’t until May 2015.
Just to be safe, maybe they should be doing the paperwork needed to set up that blind trust.