Sam Allard / Scene
Dan O'Malley, Executive Secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO, announces the endorsement of Dennis Kucinich, (7/16/21).
The North Shore AFL-CIO, the local labor organization representing more than 80,000 workers and nearly 150 unions in Northeast Ohio, has endorsed Dennis Kucinich in the 2021 Cleveland mayoral race.
AFL-CIO Executive Secretary Dan O'Malley, standing before an array of local labor leaders and rank-and-file workers, said that more than 400 labor delegates from member unions ratified the recommendation of the AFL-CIO's executive board Wednesday. He said that Kucinich "well exceeded" the 2/3 majority required for the body to make an endorsement.
"Throughout his career, Dennis Kucinich has made it abundantly clear that he is on the side of workers," O'Malley said in opening remarks. "And we are here this morning to say that as Dennis runs for mayor of Cleveland, we are on his side too."
O'Malley cited Kucinich's 100% voting record on labor issues in the U.S. House of Representatives and multiple instances of his having stood with workers in local labor disputes.
"He has been a phenomenal and game-changing leader, not only for Cleveland but for the country," O'Malley said, "a man who has proven himself time and again to be ahead of his time. One thing that has never changed with Dennis is his moral compass. In Cleveland, there is a generational opportunity to firmly plant the flag for working people and for all citizens at Cleveland City Hall. For us, the choice is clear."
Kucinich said he accepted the endorsement with humility and gratitude and correctly called the AFL-CIO's support "decisive."
Other candidates sought the endorsement not only because of the AFL-CIO's reputation but because of its local clout. There are more than 50,000 voters in union households in the city of Cleveland, and O'Malley said that the North Shore AFL-CIO would be actively communicating the endorsement, letting their members know "who has stood with us time and time again, and what's at stake in this year's election."
Kucinich articulated the values of the labor movement that he was proud to stand for: the right to organize, the right to collectively bargain, the right to strike, the right to decent wages and benefits, the right to a safe workplace, the right to a secure retirement, and the right to participate in the political system.
"These are fundamental rights in a democratic society," Kucinich said, "At every level of government, I've taken a stand on behalf of working men and women... And we shall have that flag of labor planted on top of City Hall, and we will let people know everywhere that City Hall belongs first and foremost to the working men and women of this community."
While the AFL-CIO's endorsement is by far the most significant, other candidates received endorsements this week as well.
Council President Kevin Kelley, who has already been backed by the Firefighters union and Plumbers Local 55, this week was endorsed by Kevin and Yvonne Conwell, city and county council members, respectively. In an awkward video filmed on the Conwells' front porch Tuesday, the Glenville legislators said Kelley's background as a social worker and his sound fiscal management gave him the tools to lead the city.
The Conwells had reportedly been dangling their endorsement to other candidates, inviting suspicions that they expected something in return. (The promise of a cabinet post, perhaps?) And Kelley might have been inclined to make an offer in order to generate some legitimacy on the city's predominantly black east side.
Kevin Conwell said that issues of social justice, including infant mortality and the lead crisis, were important to him. Kelley's work in recent years on initiatives related to those issues demonstrated to Conwell the sincerity of Kelley's commitment. Those issues were also of interest to former west side councilman Jay Westbrook, who endorsed Justin Bib in a Plain Dealer op-ed published on cleveland.com
"Bibb represents the real type of change we need to fight poverty, gun violence, infant mortality, racial and other injustices," Westbrook wrote. "Cleveland can’t count on the same solutions to tackle systemic and new problems. Justin Bibb is the right leader at the right time for our city, and I encourage you to join me in voting for him as our next mayor."
Westbrook's letter could be read as a rebuke of both Kelley, who is trying to characterize his candidacy as a "new path" for Cleveland; and Kucinich, who has made violent crime the histrionic centerpiece of his campaign.
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