Democracy reared its ugly head at this week’s District Council 37 delegates meeting, when union members challenged the leadership’s endorsement of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Carolyn Harper, delegate from Local 1251, tried to make a motion to reconsider the endorsement as soon as the opening gavel came down. Although procedural rules allow for emergency motions to be submitted if they are seconded, which Mitchell Feder of Local 375 did, those appeals were silenced as the microphone was cut off. A group of union members began chanting “No to Bloomberg!”
District Council 37 is one of the largest unions in New York City, with 120,000 members. Its endorsement of Bloomberg added to his credibility among Democrats in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one. Yet if what Harper and others at District Council say is true, then the DC37 nod was less an endorsement than a hijacking.
“What they did is highly unusual.” Harper says. “Normally in September we put together a screening committee so we can collectively decide whom to endorse. The leadership council endorsed him in the summer when we don’t hold meetings.”
Donna Silberberg, director of communications at District Council 37, disputes Harper’s characterization, saying, “The only unusual thing is we endorsed early. We’ve endorsed a Republican before.” She added that all locals are autonomous and can endorse whom they want. However, the leadership council has control over the union’s large political apparatus, which can include phone banks, flyers, and workers going door to door.
Harper sees the Bloomberg endorsement as absurd considering that under the mayor District Council 37 lost 4,000 jobs through layoffs.