As candidates for Chicago mayor jockey for union support, Rep. García lands a big labor endorsement

In a boost to his campaign for Chicago mayor, U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García has picked up an endorsement from IUOE Local 150, one of the state’s most influential labor unions.

With the business community largely sitting out the mayor’s race so far, union support will be especially critical in determining who sits on the fifth floor at City Hall. Mayor Lori Lightfoot has tried to ally herself with trade unions, while Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson has received support from progressive labor groups, including the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU Local 73 and SEIU Healthcare.

Now García, who was backed by SEIU affiliates and CTU in his 2015 run for mayor, has his own substantial support from the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150. In a statement, the union praised García’s “40 years as a public servant” and said he has “brought people together to find solutions.”

“The upcoming election will be a pivotal moment for the city of Chicago. Chicago is a world-class city with potential for enormous success and prosperity, but getting there will require a leader with experience bringing people together, facing difficult challenges and delivering results,” Local 150 President James Sweeney said. “(García) is the right leader to move Chicago forward, and on behalf of the 23,000 members of Local 150, I am proud to give him our endorsement.”

The union did not say how much money they will provide García’s campaign, but they are historically big spenders in support of the candidates they throw their weight behind.

Though Lightfoot’s time as mayor has been defined in part by constant fights with police and teacher unions, she has also quietly built a strong relationship with some labor leaders who appreciate her record on worker issues.

As mayor, Lightfoot pushed through a $15 minimum wage hike and a predictive workplace scheduling ordinance long backed by unions, two items that she often points to while highlighting her record. Labor groups have also lent support to her plans for a Chicago casino in River West and the union jobs it stands to bring.

But the mayor’s backing from labor unions also comes with public tensions. The plumbers union, for instance, has been supportive of Lightfoot. But the membership has twice booed her during large meetings with the rank and file, including one in mid-November.

García touted his latest endorsement by noting his parents’ and his own past labor union membership.

“I know firsthand the difference good-paying union jobs make for working families. I’ve organized alongside my union brothers and sisters to secure better wages, work conditions and benefits. That’s why I’m proud to have Local 150′s support as we continue fighting for a brighter future for all of Chicago’s working families,” he said in a news release.

Sweeney, in the same release, cited the COVID-19-related economic slowdown, saying “the Chicago skyline, once crowded with tower cranes, is eerily quiet today as development has failed to rebound in the wake of the pandemic. Chicago needs a leader who knows how to fire up our economy.” He also said concerns about crime and safety have “stalled development.”

In all, Lightfoot and eight challengers have filed nominating petitions to run in the Feb. 28 election. If none gets at least 50% of the vote, a runoff will happen April 4.