NEW YORK — The biggest labor union in New York City endorsed Public Advocate Bill de Blasio for mayor Friday, providing him a prized endorsement heading into the highly competitive Democratic primary.
Calling de Blasio "a principled champion of working people," Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers East awarded what is generally one of the most coveted seals of approval for Democratic campaigns in the city. The union, often called simply "1199," represents more than 200,000 nurses and other health workers citywide and is considered a powerful political ally that can turn out fleets of campaign volunteers.
De Blasio "has consistently stood side-by-side with caregivers for quality healthcare and issues that matter most to working families," union President George Gresham said in a statement.
The public advocate is presenting himself as one of the most liberal among the Democratic contenders, often sounding themes of concern about income inequality and uneven opportunity in a city he says has become "a playground for the elite" under Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration.
De Blasio pushed vehemently for requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave, a proposal that counted Local 1199 and other unions among supporters.
The City Council recently passed a version of the idea, which de Blasio viewed as watered-down and unduly delayed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn, one of his Democratic mayoral rivals. She had declined to bring the issue to a vote for three years, saying the time wasn't economically right, before agreeing to a compromise in late March.
At the time, de Blasio said the city's unions should look at Quinn's leadership "with a critical eye."
Campaign manager Bill Hyers hailed the endorsement as uniquely valuable, both "for what it says about our campaign and for what it will do for our campaign."
"Their support validates our belief that Bill de Blasio is the progressive choice for New York City Democrats — and it confirms the strength of our effort," Hyers said in a statement.
A former city councilman, the 52-year-old de Blasio was elected in 2009 as public advocate, an ombudsman-style office intended to serve as a direct link between citizens and the city government.
Besides Quinn, de Blasio faces Democrats including former City Councilman Sal Albanese; Comptroller John Liu; the Rev. Erick Salgado, a pastor; former Comptroller Bill Thompson. Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner has said he also may get into the race.
Republican candidates include billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis; former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota and homelessness-services nonprofit head George McDonald. Also seeking the GOP line is Democrat-turned-unaffiliated former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion Jr., who is also running as the Independence Party candidate.
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