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With discussion over union endorsements heating up, mayoral challenger Steve Francis has picked up the backing of Unite Here, the union representing hotel and restaurant employees.

With the endorsement comes the potential spending and campaign foot soldiers that such unions can muster up. It is also quite symbolic that the former conservative was able to woo union support with his new, more progressive and independent message.

My colleague Rob Davis talked to Nevada labor leaders last week to see Francis’ record on unions when he served in the state Assembly there. This is what they said:

“I’d say he’s anti-labor. I knew him to be a conservative Republican,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, who served in the Nevada Legislature at the same time as Francis. “In those days, he certainly wouldn’t be someone we would support. He was no friend of workers.”

Thompson said while Francis was in office, Nevada Republicans attempted to gut prevailing-wage laws and instituted limits on striking picketers. Jack Jeffrey, former secretary-treasurer of the Southern Nevada Building & Construction Trades Council, also served in the legislature during Francis’ tenure. He described Francis as “pretty much anti-worker.”

“The only thing that makes sense is if [San Diego labor officials] think he’s a winner and they want to go along,” Jeffrey said. “With his activities here, he was certainly never worthy of a labor endorsement.”

Those who sit on the opposite side of the table from the union, the hoteliers and restaurateurs, comprise some of Mayor Jerry Sanders’ most avid supporters.

A little primer from Unite Here’s website:

UNITE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees) and HERE (Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union) merged on July 8, 2004 forming UNITE HERE. The union represents more than 450,000 active members and more than 400,000 retirees throughout North America.

UNITE HERE boasts a diverse membership, comprised largely of immigrants and including high percentages of African-American, Latino, and Asian-American workers. The majority of UNITE HERE members are women.

ANDREW DONOHUE

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