Big labor opts not to endorse

With a wide-open Democratic mayoral primary looming, the city's biggest labor force has decided not to endorse a candidate.

Former carpenter U.S. Rep. Bob Brady had lobbied hard for backing from the Philadelphia Council of the AFL-CIO - which represents 120 local unions - but at its second endorsement meeting yesterday he fell short of the necessary two-thirds majority, insiders said.

AFL-CIO President Pat Eiding said the decision was final. He noted that the membership ultimately felt that there was more than one candidate who had been good to labor.

"There's a sense here that more than one of the candidates is very labor-friendly," Eiding said. "There's a feeling that you could put a nickel across a couple of the names and not have an enemy."

During the last two crowded mayoral primaries - in 1991 and 1999 - the AFL-CIO also chose not to endorse.

Brady's campaign yesterday said it still had the most union backing in the race.

"Bob Brady is far and away the candidate with the most union endorsements," said Brady spokeswoman Kate Philips. "Bob Brady is a union guy, and he's going to fight like hell for every working family's vote."

Some of the unions that voted said that Brady and U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah have strong voting records on labor issues and that state Rep. Dwight Evans has also been pro-union.

"Brady has been very good to us, but there's some other candidates that have been equally good," said Boise Butler, president of the longshoremen's Local 1291.

"There was a lot of unions that didn't want to upset the apple cart."

Last week, another major union - the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers - also decided not to make an endorsement.

Members could not unite behind one candidate, although Fattah did get the most votes.

Brady has received endorsements from the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5, the Teamsters Joint Council 53 and the building trades - with the exception of Local 98 of the electricians, Local 332 of the laborers, and the sheet-metal workers union.

John Dougherty, who is the powerful business manager of Local 98 and who has feuded with Brady, was among the AFL-CIO faction that opposed endorsing him.

He said yesterday that everyone would pull together in the end anyway.

"There'll be a Wednesday after the Tuesday election," he said.

"Even though I was on opposite sides of some of my longtime friends, I respect their passion."

Some union support is spread among the other candidates.

Evans has been endorsed by the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776, Transport Workers Union Local 234 and Laborers Local 332.

And Fattah has the backing of Local 8 of the stagehands union.

Candidates Tom Knox and Michael Nutter have no union endorsements. *