Connecticut’s Democratic Party establishment flocked to U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman’s side today at a labor endorsement rally in Hartford. Their message, unsurprisingly, called for party unity and tried to paint primary challenger Ned Lamont as an outsider, though they never mentioned Lamont by name. Significant among Lieberman’s union endorsements: UNITE-HERE, a 7,000 member left-wing union with a solid reputation for doorknocking during elections.The gang’s all here (l-r): Lt. Gov. Kevin Sullivan, House Speaker James Amann, Stamford Mayor Dannel Malloy, Hartford Mayor Eddie Perez, Lieberman and U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd.
“I have a different stance than Joe on the war,” said Robert Proto, President of UNITE-HERE Local 35 in New Haven. “It’s clear many of our folks don’t think the direction we’re taking [in Iraq] is right, especially because we have no concrete exit plan. But our culture is to endorse folks who have stood side by side with us.“Lieberman’s stand with UNITE-HERE in strikes against Yale brought much needed national attention and helped win a favorable contract, Proto said, which is more than enough to trump their disagreement over the war in Iraq.“Joe’s words to Yale were, ‘You have the ability to do the right thing,’” Proto said. “We don’t forget when friends stand up for us.”UNITE-HERE’s Robert Proto: Friendship is stronger than war.For Lamont to have a chance in a primary, conventional wisdom says he needs some basis of labor support to help build a field operation. By parading nine different unions in front of the media today at the Carpenters Hall on Wethersfield Avenue, Lieberman clearly tried to create the impression no such backing will materialize for his challenger.Without active support from progressive unions like UNITE-HERE, it would be next to impossible for Lamont to win, though his campaign manager Tom Swan promises a campaign “run differently than ever before, much more grassroots participation than the state has ever seen.“Swan denied Lieberman’s event puts pressure on his campaign to come out with their own labor endorsements, because they haven’t yet announced Lamont is running.“We understood going in that many of the institutional players in the Democratic Party and organized labor will need to stick with Joe,” Swan said. Ned Lamont, Lieberman’s primary challenger.Another large progressive union, the Service Employees International Union, hasn’t started its deliberations about this primary, though two of its largest locals already endorsed John DeStefano for governor. Lieberman’s support for the war has caused enormous hurt for working families, due to federal budget cuts necessary to pay for the occupation, according to Paul Filson, director of SEIU’s state council.“We’re sympathetic to a lot of Lamont’s positions but we’re not in a hurry to jump into a primary race,” Filson said.The Communications Workers of America, Teamsters and Carpenters Local 43 and 24 were among the other unions endorsing Lieberman today.