By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
BOSTON -- Union members appeared split Monday among the Democrats running for governor and other elected offices, as their chiefs sought to look past the Sept. 9 primary, while reveling in last year's election of a card-carrying union member as mayor of Boston.
At the annual Labor Day breakfast, the three Democratic gubernatorial candidates - Attorney General Martha Coakley, Treasurer Steve Grossman and pediatrician Don Berwick - shook hands and chatted up union activists inside the ballroom inside the Park Plaza Hotel, which featured signs hanging from the second floor balconies touting Grossman and Coakley.
"You have a lot of people with Coakley stickers on, and Grossman stickers on, and Berwick stickers on as well. I think that that's really how a primary should be," said Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, a former Dorchester representative and labor leader who is staying neutral in the race for governor. "Let people decide who they want to go with and at the end of the day you come together in the final. And I think that's what's going to happen here with the labor movement."
Congressman Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat and former ironworker, agreed that the unions seem divided. "Usually you'll see that everybody will coalesce around one candidate, even in a primary," Lynch told reporters. "But in this case they're pretty evenly divided. I think Steve Grossman's had a long history with labor, and because of her previous runs, Martha Coakley's got a pretty good following in there as well.
In his speech to union members, Rich Rogers, the executive secretary-treasurer of the Greater Boston Labor Council, called Charlie Baker, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for governor, "affable" and "moderate on social issues."
Rogers added that Baker is "formidable opponent but he's not a friend of ours."
Labor unions will attempt to unify behind the Democratic nominee after the Sept. 9 primary, Rogers told the News Service.
Steven Tolman, the former state senator who now heads the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, pointed to the Market Basket crisis, which ended last week with the supermarket company's ousted CEO, Arthur T. Demoulas, regaining control after a bitter feud with members of his family. The feud featured employees backing Demoulas and protesting his ouster.
Tolman claimed the "good boss" is becoming an "endangered species." "Not every company has an Artie T.," he said.
"But there is one thing that we can learn from the Market Basket saga: Solidarity works, brothers and sisters," he added.
"Brothers and sisters, we have the power amongst us by working without getting divided, by setting aside the little stupid things that might sometimes divide us," Tolman said. "And I say to all of you here today, brothers and sisters, that we've got to stick together, work together, fight together, and we will win together."
The three gubernatorial candidates ended up near the end of the speaking program, behind the labor-backed candidate for attorney general, Warren Tolman. Steve Tolman, the AFL-CIO head, is his brother.
"You've always stood with me and I've always stood with you," Tolman told the crowd, adding, "We have eight days and I need your support."
Maura Healey, a former prosecutor who has been endorsed by Teamsters Local 25, was not offered a chance to speak up on the stage, and instead made her way around the room, greeting union members.
The breakfasting crowd quieted when Mayor Walsh started to speak. Walsh said "different tactics and a different tone" are required after labor's successes this year in helping to pass laws increasing the state minimum wage and setting forth in statute rights and protections for domestic workers.
"It's time to do less battling, and more building," Walsh said. "You don't need a bullhorn when you're in the boardroom. Believe me, they hear you loud and clear."