With rousing cheers of solidarity between politicians and labor, the Greater Washington Central Labor Council held an early breakfast love-in yesterday for Mayor Walter E. Washington and its slate of five City Council candidates.
Union officials and delegates applauded and cheered during the two-hour breakfast during which the city's labor leaders promised the mayor and the council candidates that they intended to help get out of the vote for them on election day with a large infusion of manpower and telephone canvassing by union members.
In the mayor's first election bid in 1974, the labor council unions contributed more than $27,000 but very little manpower to Washington's campaign and virtually ignored the city council races.
The mayor, who was received with a standing ovation from the 100 union officials packed into the basement dining room of the Pick-Lee House hotel, exhorted them not to do the same in his reelection bid.
"We are on a countdown now" with 36 days until the Sept. 12 Democratic primary. Washington told the labor delegates. "We've got a stake in this together. You can't just talk and rah-rah, you've got to work."
In a race that polls indicate is close, Washington is counting heavily on labor support and manpower in his contest against hiw two principal opponents. Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and Council member Marion Barry.
Last Saturday, labor made its first major effort in behalf of the mayor with significant support of two 50-car motorcades that toured the eastern half of the city.
In an emotional pitch to the delegates, Arline Neal, president of Service Employes Local 82 and a long-time supporter of Washington, told the delegates yesterday that their contributions must not end there.
"If we don't utilize what we have this time," Neal said, "we're going to have trouble for many, many years to come."
Neal, whose union has 3,800 members who live in the District, also admonished the delegates to "get these endorsed [council] candidates elected or we're going to have more trouble than you can imagine." Turning to the mayor after him, Neal added, "Tell us what you want us to do and them let us be on our way to do it."
Besides the mayor, the labor council has also endorsed Councilman Douglas Moore (D-At Large) for the council chairman's race, incumbents David Clarke (D-Ward 1) and Hilda Mason (S-At Large) and two challengers, Roland Rier, a schoolteacher and delegate to the labor council from the Washington Teachers Union, who is running for the Ward 5 seat, and businesswoman Patricia Rice Press in Ward 6. All five attended yesterday's meeting.
At a mid-July meeting, the labor council delegates divided sharply over whom to support among four Democratic candidates running for the second at-large seat. After a lengthy debate, they decided to withhold unified union support.
The mayor is viewed by a large majority of labor leadership in Washington as a consistent supporter of union causes: generous unemployment compensation, high minimum wages, the right to collective bargaining and the use of union labor on city construction projects.
"I don't think there's anybody around that is not aware that I not only understand and appreciate the goals of the unions," Washington said in a recent interview. "I'm going to continue to fight in that area with them."
Moore also has been long admired by labor leaders for his support of those goals and his running verbal attacks on Washington's business community. Moore, who was the last of the council candidates to speak while the mayor waited in the dining room's lobby to make his entrance, did not disappint the delegates yesterday.
"You'll see no money from utilities of the [Metropolitan Washington] Board of Trade" listed as contributors to his campaign, Moore told the cheering delegates.
"For the first time, [the Board of Trade] will not be able to pick up the phone and say 'Hey boy, kill that [labor] bill," said Moore, who has been a Maverick on the council. "This [city], under Douglas Moore, will be a (city), under Douglas Moore, will be a labor town, not a scab town."
In a barbed reference to his opponent, councilman Arrington Dixon (D-Ward 4), Moore said he rode past Dixon on Saturday in the labor council-sponsored motorcade. "The popcorn candidate was out there putting up posters by himself," said Moore to loud laughter.
The mayor and Moore were clearly the two most popular candidates at the breakfast with Ward 6 council challenger Press running a close third. Each of the three was interrupted continually with applause and laughter.
Press was introduced by Joslyn Williams, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes Council 26, an umbrella organization for 10,000 federal employes in the Washington area. Williams intorduced Press as the charming and charismatic candidate.
"After riding on top of a car for three hours (Saturday)," Press told them, "I was high on people." And, she added, "I'm a Washington, I'm smart (loud applause). I can serve you well (shouts of 'right on')."
"Expect me to favor the people," she said, "and you will not be sorry that you pressed on with Pat Press."
At the end of yesterday's breakfast, Washington received a check for $1,000 from the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, the union representing Metro drivers.
Ronald R. Richardson, secretary treasurer of the 9,000-member Hotel and Restaurant Employes Local 25 and a union fundraiser for the mayor's campaign, said labor has contributed more than $20,000 of $100,000 the mayor has collected to date.
Minor Christian, coordinator of union campaign activities for the labor council, said they have been busy registering union members and have canvassed 6,700 for the mayor and labor-endorsed council candidates.
"Everybody took the 1974 elections for granted," Christian said. "We're putting an intense effort into this one."