Influential Health-Care Union Endorses Wiley for NYC Mayor

One of the city’s most influential and powerful unions endorsed Maya Wiley for New York City mayor on Friday, helping set the civil rights lawyer apart in a crowded field of candidates.

The labor organization, 1199SEIU is the largest U.S. health-care union, with about half of its national membership of more than 400,000 people located in the city and Long Island. Its support was crucial to launching Mayor Bill de Blasio to victory in 2013, when he wasn’t an obvious front-runner in the race.

Now, with dozens of people vying to become the next mayor of New York city, the union’s support could make a difference in boosting Wiley, who’s so far lagged behind Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and City Comptroller Scott Stringer in terms of polling and fund-raising. Wiley failed to meet a threshold to qualify for public-matching funds.

Wiley joins presidential contender Andrew Yang and a half-dozen others campaigning for the June 22 Democratic primary, which is likely to decide the next mayor in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1.

The primary will be the first mayoral race to be determined by voters ranking their five top choices in order of preference. In a Feb. 10 poll, Wiley came in fifth with 8% in a field of eight, according to a survey in which voters were asked to name their first choice. Yang was the leading contender with 28%, according to the poll, conducted by Core Decision Analytics. Only 33% recognized Wiley’s name in the poll, while 84% of respondents had heard of Yang.

On Friday, the powerful health-care union vowed “to run a robust education, persuasion and turnout effort” for Wiley, according to a statement by union president George Gresham. He was unavailable for comment, according to his spokesman, Stuart Marques.

1199SEIU has wielded power and influence upon both Republicans and Democrats. In 2002, it endorsed Republican Governor George Pataki for re-election two months after Pataki approved a deal providing $1.8 billion in health-care worker wage increases.

“Maya’s priorities are our priorities – from investing in and fairly compensating our caregivers to rebuilding our economy through job creation and training,” Gresham said. “She is not a traditional candidate.”

A former civil rights lawyer with the NAACP, Wiley appeared on MSNBC as a legal analyst and served as former counsel to de Blasio. However, she came out against the mayor’s leadership last year, criticizing his handling of city protests after the police killing of George Floyd.

Wiley vowed to back the health-care union’s priorities. “As mayor, in my City Hall, the voices of frontline workers and unions will be as loud and as powerful as the pots and pans celebrating these essential workers at 7 p.m. every night this past spring,” she said.

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