Rangel Touts Union Support After Retail Workers Back Espaillat

Charlie Rangel. (Photo: Getty)

Charlie Rangel. (Photo: Getty)

In the wake of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union’s endorsement of his top rival this week, Congressman Charlie Rangel is touting the support of three public sector unions, including one that backed him already.

Mr. Rangel’s campaign announced today that all three American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee unions–DC 37, DC 1707 and the Civil Service Employees Association–are endorsing him in his race against State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Pastor Mike Walrond and Bronx community activist Yolanda Garcia. DC 37 announced its backing in April.

“The men and women of AFSCME are united in supporting Congressman Rangel for reelection because we know we can count on him to stand up for working families,” said Lee Saunders, the president of AFSCME, in a statement. “Whether it’s pushing for better wages, fighting for affordable housing or defending the middle class, Congressman Rangel continues to be one of the most effective leaders in Washington.”

The unions boast more than 200,000 members combined, including many middle-class African-Americans, who make up Mr. Rangel’s core constituency, sources say.

When Mr. Rangel narrowly fended off Mr. Espaillat two years ago, the longtime congressman had the support of many major labor unions as well as the labor-backed Working Families Party. This time around, the WFP has endorsed no one and it remains to be seen whether influential unions like 1199 SEIU and 32BJ SEIU will follow suit.

DC 37, the most politically-active of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employee unions in the city, also has a poor track record of backing winners, despite its size, with a weaker and less organized get-out-the-vote organization than several other major unions.

Endorsements in the race have so far have been split along local and national lines, with Mr. Rangel racking up big-name national figures like former President Bill Clinton and Senator Chuck Schumer, and Mr. Espaillat locking down much of the city’s prominent political establishment, including Comptroller Scott Stringer and Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.