Friday, October 12, 2001

Luken loses AFL-CIO backing

Union group divided in mayor race

By Gregory Korte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        After months of internal debate, Cincinnati's largest labor group, the AFL-CIO, has decided not to make an endorsement in the city's first direct election for mayor in 76 years.

        The AFL-CIO, which has about 80,000 members, becomes the second major union — after the Fraternal Order of Police — to decline an endorsement.

        “Labor is like any other segment of the community — there is support for both candidates,” said Dan Radford, the executive secretary-treasurer of the labor council.

        What made the decision all the more difficult was that both candidates had strong union ties.

        Democratic Mayor Charlie Luken has supported union issues in his 20 years in public life, and has consistently gotten the AFL-CIO endorsement. He has the backing of two unions representing most city workers.

        And Courtis Fuller — also a registered Democrat but running as a Charter Committee candidate — was a shop steward for the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists when he worked as a news anchor at WLWT-TV (Channel 5).

        Mr. Fuller has said he won't accept endorsements, preferring to make his appeal to individual voters. Nonetheless, the Service Employees International Union favored him.

        Under the AFL-CIO's rules, a candidate must have the support of two-thirds of the voting members to get the nod.

        Mr. Radford, a staunch Democrat, said Wednesday he wishes the union could take a stand on what is arguably the most important election in the city's history.

        “I also agree with the two-thirds rule, because if not you could tear a labor organization apart.”

        Fraternal Order of Police President Keith Fangman said he wasn't surprised the AFL-CIO followed the police union's lead.

        “For a lot of people, it's not even the candidates themselves. It's the whole form of government that's changing,” he said Wednesday. He said the FOP is taking a “wait-and-see” approach to the new stronger mayor system.

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