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November 04, 2005

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Palo Alto Online

Publication Date: Friday, November 04, 2005

Will union support compromise council candidates? Will union support compromise council candidates? (November 04, 2005)

Drekmeier, Barton get labor nod

by Bill D'Agostino

The City of Palo Alto's largest union mailed an expensive full-color political flier this week in support of two City Council candidates: John Barton and Peter Drekmeier.

It is unusual for Service Employees International Union, Local 715, to play a notable role in a Palo Alto campaign. Mayor Jim Burch questioned whether the union's support would compromise the candidate if he were elected to the council when it came time to vote on contracts.

"I think there's a question there, a real question," Burch said.

Maya Spector, the past chair of the union and a steward, said she didn't see her chapter's support as any different from any other group that endorses candidates. The union doesn't expect to dictate decisions to the two candidates if they get on the council, she said.

"Our expectation is that they will be willing to listen to us," she said.

Drekmeier and Barton both said the endorsement and support would not change their votes.

"There's no quid pro quo involved in that," Drekmeier said.

Barton, a school-board member, noted he got the endorsement of the teachers' union when he ran for the school board, but still voted to lay off teachers when required by the budget.

"I'm a pretty independent guy," he said.

The union decided to endorse Barton and Drekmeier after interviewing them and other candidates seeking the union's endorsement.

"We just feel they would be a progressive and positive force," Spector said.

Some of the race's 10 candidates decided not to seek the union's endorsement. There are five open seats. Election day is Tuesday.

One side of the new mailing opposes state Propositions 75 and 76 and showed a picture of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger flexing his muscles. "Does he deserve MORE muscle?" the flier asked.

The other side endorsed Barton and Drekmeier. According to Barton's and Drekmeier's financial reports, the union spent more than $3,000 on each of them by putting out campaign literature.

The union represents most city employees, excluding managers, police officers and firefighters. It also represents the temporary workers, who have been trying to get their first contract with the city. Part of the reason the union decided to enter this race was because its leaders were concerned about the slow speed of those negotiations.

"I think they're close now, but you'll notice it's been 10 months and there's still no contract," Spector said.

Staff Writer Bill D'Agostino can be e-mailed at [email protected]

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