Election Day in Boston: Will the unions rule?

Since my pick for Mayor, Charlotte Golar Richie is not in the final, I will vote for Marty Walsh.  Some of the reasons are in Kevin Cullen’s column in today’s Boston Globe.  [Warning:  This is a subscriber link so I will quote more of it than I normally would.]

Mercifully, the campaign for mayor of Boston is over, and while I have no idea who will emerge the winner at the polls, I am quite certain who lost most in this race: union workers.

If there was a message, both explicit and subliminal, in all the debates and some of the news coverage, it’s that the city’s unions and unions in general are peopled by greedy, unreasonable, insatiable Bolsheviks who would gladly make Boston go the way of Detroit as long as they can get Bunker Hill Day off.

Funny, but I don’t know union workers who think like that, but then I’m in the tank.

My father was able to raise a family, and my mother was able to be a stay-at-home mom, because he belonged to a union. I belong to a union, and at one point, for reasons that remain a mystery, was elected president of the editorial workers at the Boston Herald back when Ronald Reagan became the darling of free marketeers everywhere by busting up the air traffic controllers union.

I grew up in a union household.  We were taught not to cross picket lines.  I joined SEIU 888 when I had the opportunity and helped negotiate one contract with the City of Boston.  I’m with Kevin.

With all due respect to Tommy Nee from the patrolman’s association and Richie Paris of Local 718 of the firefighters, if they think they had it hard with Tommy Menino’s minions, try negotiating a contract with the union-busting lawyers Rupert Murdoch flew in and sicced on us at Herald Square back in the day. I was just a kid and naively suggested to one of those Armani-clad lawyers my earnest wish that we could agree to add a dental plan because many of my members didn’t earn enough to get their cavities filled. He looked down his glasses at me and sniffed, “Maybe they should get a second job.”

That’s exactly the attitude of McDonald’s and Walmart and any number of corporations that pay their leaders millions and their workers so little that they have to get a second job or, in many cases, file for government assistance. Taxpayers subsidize corporations that pay their people off in the dark.

“Look,” Tommy Nee was saying, “unions built this country. They built this city. And right now union members make up a big chunk of the middle class in Boston. But they are stereotyped and disparaged in a way that would be considered deeply unfair if you were talking about any other group.”

I’m not sure that people know that if you work for the City you have to live in the City for at least the first ten years of your employment, but if you are priced out of the housing market, it can get tough.

The Globe and the Herald editorial pages can’t agree on what time it is, but they agree on the danger of electing a mayor who is a union activist.

It’s perfectly legitimate to ask if Marty Walsh would be beholden to unions, especially given the amount of money that unions have given his campaign, but both candidates should have been asked just as often if they’d be beholden to developers or law firms or any number of other monied interests.

The emphasis on the threat that unions pose to the future of the city left many union workers wishing they were only half as powerful as their critics believe them to be.

Martin J. Walsh at a Central Boston Elder Services meeting Thursday in Roxbury,

Martin J. Walsh at a Central Boston Elder Services meeting Thursday in Roxbury,

But I’m not just voting for Walsh because he is a union man.  I like his proposal to re-do the Boston Redevelopment Authority and what he has said about changes to education. There is also evidence from his time in the state legislature that he knows how to built coalitions.

I don’t know if Walsh can win, but I think he is the best man to make changes that will transition the City from the Menino Era.

Photograph:  Jessica Rinaldi For The Boston Globe

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