In U.S. House race, both claim labor’s love

File photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media
File photo by Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

It’s Labor Day, and in the U.S. House race, both Congressman Don Young and his Democratic challenger claim they’re getting strong support from organized labor.

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The Democrat, Steve Lindbeck, is in Fairbanks to march in the Labor Day parade. He’s buoyed by the recent decision of the Alaska AFL-CIO not to endorse anyone in the U.S. House race. As Lindbeck describes it, that’s a major shift.

“They, for the first time in many years, declined to make an endorsement. They’ve endorsed Young for a long time,” saidLindbeck, a former general manager of Alaska Public Media.

He says he’s been reaching out to unions. He’s got the support of several, including

Steve Lindbeck is challenging U.S. Rep. Don Young. Photo: Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media
Steve Lindbeck is challenging U.S. Rep. Don Young. Photo: Liz Ruskin/Alaska Public Media

the Alaska State Employees Association and the American Federation of Teachers. Lindbeck also won the endorsement of two maritime unions, who are mad at Young for not intervening as a non-union company assumes the contract for piloting tankers from the Valdez terminal. The company, Edison Chouest, is a major source of campaign contributions for Young.

Lindbeck, though, acknowledges he didn’t get the AFL-CIO endorsement either.

“Basically sort of fought them to a draw there. So we saw that as a big victory.”

Young has traditionally enjoyed substantial union backing. That’s due in part to his support of project labor agreements, which require union labor on certain government-funded projects.  Young is back in Washington this week as Congress returns from its summer break. Young’s campaign manager, Jerry Hood, downplayed the importance of the AFL-CIO decision not to issue an endorsement. Several unions that are under the AFL umbrella ARE endorsing Young, including the Alaska Teamsters, the Plumbers and Steamfitters local 367, and the Operating Engineers302.Hood, who used to head the Alaska Teamsters, says labor’s heart is unchanged.

“The opponent can tout labor’s support all he wants. The voting members of the

U.S Rep. Don Young speaks to the Capital City Republicans and Capital City Republican Women at the Prospector Hotel April 4, 2016. (Photo by Jennifer Canfield/KTOO)
U.S Rep. Don Young (2016 file photo by Jennifer Canfield/KTOO)

unions are, I think, going to continue to go to the polls and support Don.”

Nationally, union membership has been in steep decline for many years. In Alaska, though, nearly 22 percent of workers were represented by unions last year. That’s equal to the rate in Hawaii and second only to New York.