The District's top union leaders plan a pow-wow Monday night to try to hammer out a unified labor slate for the fall elections, but agreement on endorsements for mayor and D.C. delegate to Congress may prove to be elusive.
Labor officials are divided over several strong candidates in both contests, and there's a good chance the leadership of the Washington Metropolitan Council AFL-CIO will be unable to reach the two-thirds majority necessary to back a single candidate, they say.
In both races, there appear to be three strong candidates for labor's blessing, according to union activists.
D.C. Council Chairman David A. Clarke (D), council member Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4) and Del. Walter E. Fauntroy (D-D.C.) are in the final running on the mayor's side, while council member Betty Ann Kane (D-At Large), civil rights activist Eleanor Holmes Norton and former Barry administration official Joseph P. Yeldell are said to be the favorites in the congressional race.
With 75,000 District workers in the AFL-CIO, many of whom vote and volunteer in city elections, the labor endorsement has traditionally been one of the most coveted in local politics, and this year has been no exception.
Those contenders with the powers of incumbency have gone the extra mile to try to shore up their labor base. Just last week, for instance, Jarvis moved amendments to the city's workers compensation law out of her Housing and Economic Development Committee. The changes -- hotly opposed by business lobbyists -- have been sought by the labor unions for years, but they were unable to persuade Jarvis to move the bill, until now, that is.
Jarvis's candidacy is also being quietly promoted by members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1975, a politically influential local representing employees at the Department of Public Works, according to labor sources.
Meanwhile, Kane sponsored an emergency bill this week that would effectively limit the Barry administration's ability to carry out employee furloughs as planned this year.
The last-minute maneuvering by some of the candidates may not be enough to capture the labor endorsement. Jarvis is getting strong competition from Fauntroy, a long-standing supporter of liberal causes, and Clarke, whom some labor officials describe as the unions' most dependable ally on the council. Clarke already has been endorsed by a local labor union, representing more than 3,000 workers.
Meanwhile, Kane has angered some labor leaders by the perception that she has been too closely allied with business interests over the years, a perception that could benefit Norton and Yeldell.
Norton has long been closely tied to the national AFL-CIO, and several international unions are said to be urging their locals here to back the Georgetown law professor. Yeldell also retains considerable good will among local workers, especially those in the American Federation of Government Employees locals, because of his role as a troubleshooter for Mayor Marion Barry over the years.
People lining up last Friday and Saturday night at the Uptown Theatre on Connecticut Avenue NW to see the movie blockbuster, "Die Hard 2," got a bonus feature: There was David A. Clarke working the line, greeting moviegoers and handing out campaign literature.
Clarke said the campaign gimmick was the idea of his son, Jeffrey, 15, a student at Woodrow Wilson Senior High School, who noticed that the Uptown was the only theater where the movie is playing in the District.
"He figured the likelihood was that most of the people in the line would be from the District, and they would be a captive audience," the candidate explained. "We just did it, and it worked."
The break-in occurred during the Fourth of July holiday, when the petitions were stored safely at the home of a senior Turner staff member, the campaign said. The burglary was reported to D.C. police, which Turner headed for eight years until last year. No arrests have been made.