NEWARK – With the Communications Workers of America, New Jersey’s largest public workers union, set to endorse South Ward Councilman Ras Baraka in the Newark mayoral race on Tuesday, Baraka expressed his “excitement” about the union’s support.
“The CWA brings a level of union support that we need,” said Baraka as he confirmed the endorsement. “They have helped candidates in municipalities like Orange and Jersey City get elected. We absolutely can use anything they have, whether it’s money or ground troops.”
The CWA, which represents more than 40,000 state workers and 15,000 county and municipal workers, has 1,900 members who live in Newark. The union announced the start of an organizing drive for taxi drivers in Newark last week.
Baraka is battling councilmen Anibal Ramos, Jr. and Darrin Sharif, as well as former state Assistant Attorney General Shavar Jeffries in the May 2014 Newark mayoral election.
One of Baraka’s rivals has already been endorsed by other significant unions: Ramos was backed by the Northeast Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 825 in June.
But Baraka believes that the CWA endorsement sets him apart as “the labor candidate” in the Newark mayoral race.
“This endorsement will signal to other unions that they should get behind our program and vision for Newark. We’ve been behind several progressive, labor-related issues, whether it’s support for a paid sick leave bill or immigrants’ rights. I’m in the union now,” said Baraka, the principal of Newark’s Central High School, referring to his membership in the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA). “What’s going to become clear to people in this city is that we have an overwhelming amount of support.”
The union’s endorsement in the city’s mayoral race is not its first foray into Newark politics. The CWA endorsed former Newark mayor and now U.S. Sen. Cory Booker in the special U.S. Senate election held in October.