Can union endorsements still sway the mayoral election?

Posted at 6:39 PM, Jun 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-06-20 18:39:28-04

MANHATTAN (PIX11) — It was a major endorsement and one that took months of vetting to get.

The highly recognized and sought after United Federation of Teachers threw their support to mayoral candidate Bill Thompson.  Thompson was once a City comptroller and President of the City’s Board of Education.  The very same union, however, did not endorse him back in 2009 when he ran against Mayor Bloomberg.

With about 175,000 voting members in the City’s five boroughs, the UFT believes they hold quite a bit of political sway.

“We’ve endorsed double digit candidates who were behind and they’ve won,” said UFT President, Michael Mulgrew.

So far the City’s largest union, 1199 SEIU, endorsed public advocate Bill de Blasio. John Liu picked up numerous union endorsements, such as District Council 37, which represents municipal workers and the local Plumbers Union No. 1. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was endorsed by the Retail Wholesale Department Store Union and United Food and Commercial Workers.

Union endorsements historically have had greater power. But many political analysts insist that in the past 20 years, the role and influence of unions have diminished nationally. Membership, particularly amongst the younger workforce has declined, as has the ability to generate a large amount of money. So with candidates actively continuing to seek out this big announcement moment, does the relationship even matter?  And do unions continue to appeal to voters as they once did?

Keep in mind New York is a different beast and often operates differently from national trends. Despite that fact, New York City political analyst Basile Smikle believes the timing of endorsements may have greater impact than where the endorsements are coming from.

“Some of them will put people on the streets.  They will do a few rallies they will send a few people door to door to do canvassing.  But by in large I think their ability to carry the day and put a candidate over the top has diminished somewhat,” said Smikle.