NEW YORK CITY-In a rare spirit of collaboration, the Real Estate Board of New York and 32BJ SEIU, the local union representing doormen and building service workers, are coming together to interview mayoral candidates, it was first reported Tuesday in Capital New York.
The groups have not always agreed with each other on various issues in the past but they’re looking to put aside their differences for this key election, says Rob Speyer, chairman of REBNY, in a statement to GlobeSt.com. “We look forward to an unprecedented degree of cooperation between REBNY and 32BJ,” he says. “We are so much more powerful together, and while we won’t see eye-to-eye every time, there are many critical issues where we share a common viewpoint and can create a new standard of how business and labor work together.”
Besides, the organizations actually have some common ground when it comes to their concerns for the city, Hector Figueroa, president of Local 32 BJ, tells GlobeSt.com. “This is the result of a year-long process where we both identified issues of interest to our members. These include good jobs; economic development; budget deficit, immigration reform, affordable housing and infrastructure—which includes issues like mitigating CO2 emissions and climate change-related adaptation. Whether we agree or not, it’s just another way to learn more about the candidates.”
The two groups are screening Democratic candidates throughout this month and plan to speak with Republican candidates next month. Thus far, Democrats are having a bit of a better showing to the union, Figueroa notes. “There are more candidates in the Democratic party today who seem to say the right things about addressing the needs of working people, and there are just a handful of independents [doing that]. We would like to see more Republican and independent candidates sensitive to the issues of working people.”
Following the interviews by the groups at large, the SEIU local will invite 300 of its most active members to meet with all the candidates—or as many who agree to participate—in a private forum. “It’s good to observe the candidates in different formats,” he says, “especially to see if they remain consistent with their message.”
SEIU will eventually endorse a candidate. The union, which has 75,000 members in New York City, has previously stood behind candidates in both major parties and it endorsed Mayor Michael Bloomberg when he ran as an independent candidate. REBNY has over 13,000 members. The group has never endorsed a candidate but many of its members are donors to political campaigns, notes Capital.