Edwards the choice of some unions

Published July 6, 2004 12:49PM (EDT)

Choosing John Edwards over Dick Gephardt won't necessarily hurt John Kerry with those all-important labor unions. Edwards is the veep of choice for many unions, the Associated Press reports.

"Despite labor's strong ties to Rep. Gephardt, unions aren't solidly behind him as John Kerry's pick for vice president. Some prefer Sen. John Edwards as the fresh face they think can bring energy and charisma to the ticket.

"On Gephardt's side are blue-collar, hard hat unions that fervently backed the Missouri congressman during his failed presidential bid. The growing service and public employee unions that bypassed Gephardt in the primaries are generally behind Edwards. 'I firmly believe he would make a great vice president and a great running mate,' Bruce Raynor, president of UNITE, said of Edwards. Formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees, the union is merging with the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees this week, with Raynor heading the new organization.

"'He would add dramatically to this ticket,' said Raynor, whose union remained neutral in the primaries, eventually endorsing Edwards in early February as Kerry's lone challenger.

"Other unions wanted a fresh face. For the two largest unions in the AFL-CIO -- the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- that face was Howard Dean.

"Now, instead of flocking to the man considered labor's candidate, SEIU leaders prefer Edwards, the smooth-talking, feel-good, former trial lawyer initially dismissed as a primary lightweight. Like Gephardt, Edwards also has labor ties: his brother belongs to the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and his mother is a retired member of the Letter Carriers.

"SEIU President Andy Stern said that, in a straw poll, 90 percent of his union's executive board chose the first-term senator. He hadn't decided how hard to pursue that with Kerry. AFSCME declined to discuss its preference."

By Stephen W. Stromberg

Stephen W. Stromberg is a former editorial fellow at Salon.

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