The Greater St. Louis Labor Council, acting on the recommendation of the St. Louis City Labor Club, has unanimously endorsed incumbent St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay for re-election. Slay is seeking an unprecedented fourth term.
In his 2009 race, the mayor also had labor’s endorsement; he won with 61 percent majority.
The Democratic primary is March 5 and the general election April 2. However, in St. Louis, with no real Republican opposition expected, the primary election will be the defacto vote for the office. The mayor has one opponent in the primary.
“It’s clear from the unanimous decision of the delegates that the labor movement appreciates the overall support and cooperation they’ve had from City Hall,” said St. Louis Labor Council President Bob Soutier. “But we do have unions that often have disagreements with the mayor and we’ve stressed to him that it’s important that he understand that their issues are real and need to be addressed.
“We look forward to working with the mayor in his next term to continue to move St. Louis forward.”
At a luncheon meeting with union leaders later last week, Slay said, “the St. Louis Labor Council endorsement may be the most important in a mayoral campaign. I am honored to have it.” Then he added, “I won’t let you down.”
Slay said the city has 12 union contracts with various unions and has signed agreements with all but one. Because health insurance is such a big deal with city employees, he said, “We have added two members of organized labor to our health insurance selection committee.”
Slay noted that he got personally involved in breaking a stalemate for a contract the St. Louis Police Officers Association negotiated with the Board of Police Commissioners. It’s the first contract with police in the history of the city, he said, “and it’s good for both parties.”
Despite a heated and ongoing fight between City Hall and Fire Fighters Local 73 over the fire fighters pension fund, general support for Slay remains widespread in the union community.
“I think he’s proven to be a friend of labor,” Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council Jeff Aboussie said. “He’s proven to promote union construction through all of his developments in the city and – rightfully so – he got the friendly incumbent endorsement, which I feel was proper.”
In meeting with the Labor Council’s executive board in November, Mayor Slay stressed that he’s had a “labor friendly” administration even though he admitted there were differences at time, which are to be expected.
He outlined a series of accomplishments made with the help of organized labor:
• Having a staff member, Mary Ellen Ponder formerly with the Iron Workers, as a direct liaison with labor.
• Over $2 Billion in construction, most of it by unionized workers.
• Some $325 million in public works projects, again, most with unionized workers.
• Working with the Building & Construction Trades Council to ensure that the upcoming 20-year, multi-billion construction work by the Metropolitan Sewer District is union work and includes appropriate minority representation and contractors.
• Providing a two percent pay raise this year for all city employees despite the fact that the general economy is in a funk.
• When manpower cuts had to be made, they were by attrition.
• Established a series of Listening Tours to meet directly with the public and city workers to hash out issues and concerns.
• Directed his staff to work with labor leaders when they have issues to discuss.
• Preventing those who would harm unions through city ordinances from doing so.
• Providing collective bargaining for city police officers, the first time in the city’s history.