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June 07, 2010

Racine to Wear the Union Label

Banner33 Two of the state's largest labor unions have joined forces to endorse a single candidate in the Democratic primary: State Senator, and former Lieutenant Governor, Doug Racine.

The endorsements have been in the works for more than a month with candidates meeting with union leaders one-on-one.

On Sunday, the 10,000-member Vermont AFL-CIO endorsed Racine, along with several other Democrats. Today, Racine earned the endorsement of the state's largest labor union — the 11,500-member Vermont chapter of the National Education Association. 

"This is exciting news for me and a good recognition from them that I've been working on issues they care about, and remember in Vermont unions are not focused on just labor issues, but working people's issues," Racine told Seven Days after receiving news of his AFL-CIO nod. "Labor has always been interested in issues that include worker's compensation, minimum wage and health care."

Racine hopes the union endorsements will help in several ways, including fundraising and recruiting volunteers.

"And, I'm hoping for more," said Racine.

A third major union endorsement — one from the Vermont State Employees Association — could come within the next few weeks. The VSEA represents about 8000 members, both active and retired state workers.

In a five-way Democratic primary, each candidate is looking for the slightest edge in what has proved a competitive political scrum.

Missing out on these first two endorsements were Senate President Pro Tem Peter Shumlin, Sen. Susan Bartlett, former Senator Matt Dunne and Secretary of State Deb Markowitz.

Also on Sunday, the AFL-CIO endorsed Rep. Steve Howard (D-Rutland) in the Democratic primary for Lieutenant Governor over Rep. Christopher Bray (D-New Haven), and former Sen. Jim Condos for Secretary of State over attorney Charles Merriman.

The union also backed Burlington-based policy analyst Doug Hoffer, who is running in the Democratic primary for auditor. If he wins the Democratic primary, he would seek the support of Progressives and run in the general election as a Democrat-Progressive.

The unions also backed U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) and U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) in their reelection bids.

“Whether it’s protecting our members against draconian spending caps, advocating for our public schools or looking out for the interests of educators and all working Vermonters, Doug has never wavered,” said Martha Allen, president of Vermont-NEA and a 30-year veteran teacher, in a statement. “We believe that Doug offers a history of support and the promise of further advancing the causes that are important to our members.”
Racine was selected after a months-long process that involved face-to-face interviews with the VT-NEA board, an appearance at Vermont-NEA’s annual meeting earlier this year, a five-way televised debate on labor issues, and his answers on a questionnaire about education and labor issues.

The VT-NEA will make recommendations in the general election in several statewide races and in all legislative races. Those selections will be revealed by October.

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