Union endorsements matter in Philly politics. Why did mayoral candidates attack each other for winning? 2023

Hilly is union.

During a 6abc discussion Tuesday night, mayoral contenders attacked each other for receiving labor endorsements.

Even stranger: Those candidates are union-backed.

First, former City Councilmember Helen Gym challenged Cherelle Parker, a former state representative and Council member, for her support from the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, a group of 30 Philadelphia construction unions. Gym mentioned how many local contributors supported her candidate.

I raised the most money from Philadelphians. “My donors are 72% Philadelphian,” Gym stated. “Building trades unions fund other candidates in this race. 15 building trades unions fund Cherelle Parker’s campaign two-thirds this year. People’s election. My campaign demonstrates that.”

Gym’s strike is odd on multiple levels. She has received building trades union donations as a progressive labor backer.

She also supported a Building Trades Council champion through difficult times.

Gym was the only Council member to publicly support former Councilmember Bobby Henon after he and John J. Dougherty were indicted in a federal corruption case involving Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, a politically powerful union where both men were top officials. Dougherty led the council.

In late 2019, Henon was trying to stay as Council majority leader while awaiting trial, while several of his colleagues tried to unseat him. Henon’s only public defender was Gym.

“I work hard to have a good working relationship with all my colleagues, including Councilmember Henon,” she remarked at the time. “I believe unions are the best way to ensure quality jobs, decent working conditions, and counter the out-of-control corporate greed that has exacerbated inequality in our city and nation.”

Parker became the council majority leader.

Henon and Dougherty were later convicted of bribery and honest services fraud. Gym was favored to receive the Building Trades Council’s mayor’s endorsement before the ruling. After his conviction, Dougherty resigned, and Parker ally Ryan Boyer became council president.

In February, the council backed Parker, and some locals have donated to a super PAC supporting her.

Jeff Brown, a ShopRite owner and first-time candidate, also made an odd labor-related criticism on Tuesday.

Brown called Parker and Gym “the two concerning unions” for their trades and Philadelphia Federation of Teachers endorsements.

“I didn’t want even their endorsement, the building trade unions and the teachers union, who have steered us wrong,” he remarked. Working people and their unions support me. I’m proud because I represent them.”

Both union leaders instantly denounced his remarks, stating he sought their support. The teachers union provided a screenshot of Brown’s email acknowledging their endorsement interview.

Boyer went farther and urged unions that endorsed Brown to withdraw.

“To be clear, Jeff Brown practically begged for the endorsement of the Building Trades,” Boyer said on Facebook Tuesday night. “He begged for a rock.”

The police union, Teamsters, transit workers, his grocery store workers’ union, and the city’s largest union have endorsed Brown.

The International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Local 8, the only Building Trades Council member not to support Parker, has backed Brown.

Brown, who sits on the Convention Center board, is familiar to IATSE because Dougherty and longstanding carpenters leader Ed Coryell fought over it for years.

The Convention Center carpenters were forced out, and IATSE members took over much of the work.

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