The greater Washington Central Labor Council gathered yesterday for an exuberant public embrace of Mayor Walter E. Washington's mayoralty candidacy and directed some harsh criticism at his closely bunched rivals, City Council Chairman Sterling Tucker and Councilman Marion Barry.
A who's who of about 75 local union officials, all packed into the Kennedy-King Room of the Philip Murray-Building 1126 16th St. NW, cheered, applauded and repeatly announced their "100 percent" support of Mayor Washington. The Labor council represents 145 union locals with a metropolitan rank-and-file membership of 200,000.
The labor leaders and the mayor, directly and by nuance, also derided and jeered the candidacies of Tucker and Barry during the lively hour-long session.
The mayor, dressed in a conservatively cut three-piece gray pin-stripe suit with silver gray tie against a white shirt, sat beaming on a raised dais as seven of the city's best-known and most influential labor leaders praised his leadership. Councilman Douglas Moore, a candidate for the council chairmanship against rival Arrington Dixon, also was present and was introduced by labor council president Robert E. Petersen to loud cheers and shouts.
"You know who built this town from ashes - we did!" the mayor said in reference to the flame-fed riot the city suffered a decade ago.
"We're going to fight," continued Washington about his present campaign, "and it's going to be one big fight. We've got the bodies and we're going to the streets" to get the voters.
Although the mayor has the over-whelming support of labor leadership in the city, a recent Washington Post poll shows that union households are only slightly more in favor of Washington than are city Democrats as a whole.
Of 1,020 Democrats surveyed between June 1 and June 5, about one fourth belong to union households.
In the mayor's race, 25 percent of those in union homes said they would vote for Washington as compared to 24 percent for Tucker and 15 percent for Barry, with 36 percent undecided. Among voters citywide, Washington got 20 percent, Tucker 24 and Barry 18 with 35 percent undecided.
Union leaders said yesterday that they probably will endorse Moore in the chairman's race. The Post survey found that union households voted nearly identical to other city Democrats - 54 percent for Dixon and 21 percent for Moore, with the remainder undecided in that contest.
"Those figures will erode down" in the mayor's favor, said Ron Richardson, secretary-treasurer of Hotel and Restaurant Employes Local 25. "We have not educated our membership yet." Richardson added, "and we will be going after the undecided."
Labor council head Petersen, in a display of the organization's potential political muscle, announced during the press conference that the council will run a massive voter registration campaign make about 150,000 calls to union members and donate 2,000 volunteers to work on telephone banks for the mayor's campaign.
It also was learned yesterday that the AFL-CIO's Maryland and D.C. committee on political education will be mailing and endorsement newsletter to 74,000 District of Columbia union rank-and-file members urging them to vote for Mayor Washington.
The newsletter will be mailed out two weeks before the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, said Edward R. Lamon, director of the Maryland-D.C. AFL-CIO's political committee at a cost of $2,000.Lamon said the newsletter endorsement does not count as a financial contribution to Mayor Washington's campaign. "We're (just) informing our members with our own literature." Lamon said, "which is our First Amendment right."
In his 1974 campaign for election, Mayor Washington received over $27000 in campaign contributions from organized labor out of almost $200,000 in total reported contributions. "Oh we'll get more this time around" from the unions the mayor said in response to a question after the press conference.
Although Mayor Washington has the overwhelming support of the bulk of union leadership in the city, two comparatively small union locals representing city employes the Washington Teachers Union and the Fire Fighters Association, voted against endorsing the mayor. The teachers union recently endorsed Barry and the Fire Fighters are experted to do the same.
The second largest union local body representing city employes. Council 20 of the American Federation of State. County and Municipal Employes, endorsed the mayor earlier this week. The largest union local body representing city employes. Council 211 of the American Federation of Government Employees, is expected to vote soon on who it will endorse.
Cleo Michaels president of Council 211 and a retired District of Columbia government employe, said in a telephone interview Tuesday that he personally supports Barry. Michaels added that he did not know how the members of Council 211 will vote.
During the press conference, Ron Richardson criticized Barry and Tucker. Richardson said Tucker lacks sufficient administrative experience to run the city government, and that Tucker is "owned body and soul" by John Hechinger, a long-time political associate of Tucker Hechinger is president of a chain of home improvement stores that bears his family name. Those stores, Richardson said, are stafled by nonunion employes.
Barry, Richardson said, represented the poor in Washington as a millitant street activist 10 years ago, "but now represents the interests of the (Metropolitan Washington) Board of Trade."
Tucker responding to a reporter's inquiries later, said that as a field director for the Urban League he ran 102 offices nationwide. He declined comment on the Hechinger allegations. Barry said he tries to represent a broader constituency today than he did a decade ago and called Richardson "a liar" in relation to the board of trade charge.