‘She’s not Bloomberg:’ a union unhappy with the mayor endorses his ally Quinn

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The Retail Wholesale Department Store Workers Union and its president, Stuart Appelbaum, are endorsing City Council Speaker Christine Quinn for mayor, calling her the progressive Democrat with the strongest chance of winning the general election in November.

Appelbaum's endorsement, announced in an interview with the New York Times this evening, is a coup for Quinn. Appelbaum was an outspoken supporter of Bill Thompson when he ran against Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009. Appelbaum has kept up his criticism of Bloomberg since that election.

But in endorsing Quinn, Appelbaum said, "she's not Bloomberg," and that "she provides the best vehicle for progressives for the first time in 20 years."

The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. One local affiliate of the UFCW, Local 1500, which endorsed Bloomberg in 2009, announced in December they were backing Quinn.

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The news comes a few days after Public Advocate Bill de Blasio announced his mayoral candidacy outside his Park Slope home, describing himself as a progressive alternative to the "elitist" administration in City Hall.

It also comes on the same day another progressive Democratic candidate banking on labor support, City Comptroller John Liu, suffered another setback, with reports that one of his long-time aides, Sharon Lee, will testify for the government against a top donor and a former campaign aide.

Quinn hasn't formally announced her candidacy but has the highest approval rating among the declared and likely candidates.

Quinn has been criticized by some progressives for aligning too closely with Bloomberg, and failing to pass a Paid Sick Day bill that Bloomberg and business leaders oppose, but is supported by organized labor and enough Council members to override a mayoral veto. Quinn did deliver on another big agenda item for RWDSU and other unions, in the form of a Living Wage Bill that guarantees higher wages for workers on construction projects being developed with the help of government subsidies. After months of negotiations, Quinn shepherded a compromised version of the bill.

But, in a sign of the lingering challenges she faces brokering a peace between her two constituencies—the mayor's administration and progressive labor unions—she abruptly walked away from a press conference announcing the deal after an attendee yelled about "Pharaoh Bloomberg."

Later, Bloomberg undermined the idea that Quinn was distancing herself from the administration by passing the bill, noting the Council didn't pass it until after FreshDirect formalized their deal to move its operations from Queens to the Bronx, excluding them from the bill's higher wage mandate.

Quinn has also scored points with organized labor by steadfastly opposing Wal-Mart's efforts to open its first store in the city.

New York City hasn't elected a Democratic mayor since David Dinkins in 1989. He was defeated after one term by Rudy Giuliani, who ran on the Republican and LIberal Party lines.

This year, the Republican field of candidates has grown considerably: billionaire oil and supermarket magnet John Catsimatidis entered the race yesterday, Giuliani's deputy mayor Joe Lhota is running, as are two other Republicans who, until recently, were registered Democrats: DOE Fund founder George McDonald and local publisher Tom Allon.