Leaders of the largest union representing municipal workers plan to ask their members to officially endorse Eric Adams for mayor, according to an announcement from District Council 37 on Wednesday. It won’t be official until their delegates meet later this month, but the nomination serves as another shot in the arm for the current Brooklyn Borough President, who is among the top contenders in the race according to the latest polling in a crowded field of candidates.
With their contract set to expire in May, and several mayoral candidates calling for belt-tightening to close the city’s multi-billion dollar budget gap, the union leadership said they wanted a candidate who would support their members, many of whom are considered essential workers.
“We need a mayor who will be understanding of the plight of working people and their struggles,” Henry Garrido, DC 37 executive director, told Gothamist/WNYC earlier this month. “We need a mayor who's not going to give up and cave to a pro-business agenda,” he added, saying the union was focused on finding someone who would not call for drastic cuts to wages or the size of the city’s workforce.
So far, Adams has adopted a moderate position when it comes to the city’s workforce and finances. Speaking at a mayoral forum hosted by the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonpartisan budget watchdog nonprofit, Adams talked about reducing the size of the city’s workforce through attrition, while also seeking 3-5% annual cuts across agencies.
DC 37 represents a cross-section of city workers across multiple agencies and functions, including essential workers like the city’s paramedics, EMTs and 911 operators; clerical and administrative staff; certain health and hospital workers; as well as several positions in schools, libraries, CUNY, and cultural institutions across the city.
As candidates scramble for ways to build support in a crowded field, union leaders are also placing their bets on the candidate most likely to serve their needs and win the city’s first ranked-choice voting mayoral primary. In 2013, DC 37 made a losing bet sticking with then embattled City Comptroller John Liu, who faced an ongoing campaign finance inquiry.
The union’s selection comes after a months-long screening process: interviewing candidates, holding town hall meetings and polling their own members. Garrido touted the significance of DC 37’s endorsement when it becomes official.
“A lot of the unions have power, they have money, they have influence, but they don't have the membership living in the city the way our union does,” he told Gothamist / WNYC. He pointed to the union’s 150,000 members plus 50,000 retirees and their families, “89 percent of those live here in the city.”
That’s part of what differentiates the DC 37 endorsement, Garrido stressed, since so many of their members have a residency requirement, unlike the city’s police and fire union members, who often live and vote outside the five boroughs.
In past elections, the union has seen 15 percent higher voter turnout than the general electorate and 88 percent of members have voted for the union endorsed candidates, according to DC 37 spokesperson Freddi Goldstein.
Their selection, and the money they plan to invest persuading their members to come out in support of Adams, could serve as a counterbalance to a growing crop of deep-pocketed donors investing in political action committees intended to draw more moderate, pro-business voters to the polls.
This would mark the second major union that’s backed Adams for mayor. He was endorsed by the Hotel Trades Council last week.
The endorsement from DC 37 needs to be finalized at their delegate meeting on March 23rd, which will vote to approve this full slate of candidates:
- Mayor: Eric Adams
- Comptroller: Corey Johnson Public Advocate: Jumaane Williams
- Manhattan Borough President: Mark Levine
- Brooklyn Borough President: Khari Edwards
- Queens Borough President: Donovan Richards
- Bronx Borough President: Vanessa Gibson
- Manhattan District Attorney: Tahanie Aboushi
- Brooklyn District Attorney: Eric Gonzalez