The country’s largest healthcare worker and property service unions endorsed Brandon Scott for Baltimore City Mayor, Shannon Sneed for City Council President and Bill Henry for City Comptroller on Friday.
The Service Employees International Union 1199 and 32BJ cited Scott, Sneed and Henry’s support of a $15 minimum wage for all workers, efforts to expand and protect the right to unionize and their pledges to make Baltimore’s wealthy institutions contribute their “fair share” to community services.
1199SEIU represents about 10,000 local healthcare workers while 32BJ represents more than 20,000 local property service workers. Their members include hospital workers, airport workers, janitors and security guards. Union delegates chose candidates who they say have records and visions that promise to move Baltimore toward greater racial, economic and social justice.
“With candidates like Brandon Scott, Shannon Sneed, and Bill Henry, we can start to build a Baltimore where everyone can enjoy high-quality healthcare, great public schools, decent housing in safe communities, and good union jobs,” Lisa Brown, the Executive Vice President of the Maryland/DC Division of 1199SEIU, said.
“We want partners that are tired of business as usual with real solutions that help guide us to a different direction,” said Ricarra Jones, 1199SEIU’s political director. “That's why our endorsements are not just name only. We are committed to resources, putting our resources down and doing what we do best.”
The unions will contribute significant support to Scott, Sneed and Henry and other endorsed candidates, including doorknocking, phonebanking, and local organizing.
“Our members are black and brown,” Jaime Contreras, a Vice President at 32BJ, said. “They are the ones that make the city move and work and keep people safe.”
Contreras said Baltimore needs a uniter, not a divider, and someone who is unafraid to stand up to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE. “Brandon is that person,” he said.
Contreras cited Scott’s Thursday testimony in Annapolis for the Secure Maryland Wage Act, which would boost workers’ wages at BWI Airport, the Port of Baltimore and Baltimore Penn Station.
Scing union jobs with Baltimore, so that Baltimore can truly be the best Baltimore it can be,” the city council president said.
Mayor Jack Young, state senator Mary Washington, former mayor Shelia Dixon and former prosector Thiru Vignarajah are also vying for the Democratic mayoral primary.
Sneed, a freshman councilwoman who currently represents the city’s 13th district, said workers’ rights are amid her top priorities. She, along with Scott, has introduced legislation that would mandate that large city contracts abide by labor union pay and benefits standards.
“I've been fighting with you for our working families since my first day in office,” she said. “I look forward to really working with all of you to make sure that our city is the best that it can possibly be.”
Councilman Leon Pinkett, state delegate Nick Mosby, former councilman Carl Stokes and attorney Dan Sparaco are also running for the position’s Democratic primary nomination.
Jones said that Henry would shake up the comptroller’s office. “That’s not been done in decades,” she said. “Decades, y’all heard that?”
Comptroller Joan Pratt, a Democrat running for re-election, has held her position for over 20 years.
“The comptroller is supposed to be the financial watchdog for Baltimore City,” Henry said. He said that as comptroller, he would share more information and data about city spending with the public.
“If more people knew how their money was being spent,” Henry said, “I think we would spend it better.”
The unions also endorsed sitting Democratic council members Zeke Cohen of the 1st district, Danielle McCray of the 2nd district, Ryan Dorsey of the 3rd district, Sharon Green Middleton of the 6th district, Kristerfer Burnett of the 8th district and John Bullock of the 9th district.
Several seats have retiring council members or are held by council members running for other positions. For these seats, the unions endorsed Democratic candidates Phylicia Porter for the 10th district, Akil Patterson for the 13th district and Odette Ramos for the 14th. The unions did not endorse a candidate for the 7th district seat; the seat’s incumbent councilman Leon Pinkett is running for city council president.
The unions also endorsed a candidate challenging an incumbent: Phillip Westry. The lawyer and Democrat is running for the 12th district, which is currently represented by Councilman Robert Stokes, Sr.
The unions did not endorse any candidates in the 5th and 11th districts. Those are represented by Democratic councilmembers Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer and Eric Costello, respectively.