Earlier today, two powerful labor unions, NY—1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and 32BJ SEIU, released a joint statement announcing their endorsement of state Senate candidate Gustavo Rivera, who is running against State Senator Pedro Espada, Jr.
"With high membership density in the 33rd, both 1199 and 32BJ are making this race top priority for the primary and general elections," the statement said. "Both unions will soon be starting with direct mail, live phone calls and ground troops to mobilize union members on Rivera's behalf."
"Albany needs leaders who put the interests of working New Yorkers ahead of politics and power plays," said 32BJ President Mike Fishman in the statement. "As someone who pledges to uphold the high standards we should expect from our public servants, we are proud to support Gustavo Rivera."
Added George Gresham, President of 1199 SEIU: "Throughout his career, Gustavo has stood for integrity and the kind of progressive values that our members share. This district deserves honest leadership, and we believe Gustavo Rivera will be a true voice for reform rather than an obstacle for change."
Union support is seen as critical if Rivera is unseat Espada.
As we mentioned earlier, Rivera (pictured above) and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. had scheduled a lunch meeting today at a restaurant in Kingsbridge to discuss Rivera's candidacy and his plans, if elected, for the 33rd District.
The press were invited and half-a-dozen reporters and photographers showed up to take photos and ask questions. Diaz was quick to say he wasn't endorsing Rivera - at least not yet. The men, who with a handful of staffers had just ordered their food, stressed this was the beginning of a conversation between them. Diaz said he would also meet with Daniel Paternacht, the other candidate in the race, if approached.
Asked if he would definitely support someone, Diaz said: "I can tell you one thing, I will not be endorsing the incumbent." He added: "Pedro Espada, to many folks here in the Bronx, the city, and the state, has been that figure that epitomizes the dysfunctionality of Albany."
Speaking after lunch, Rivera said he thought the talks went well. "This is an ongoing process," he said. "I'm hopeful that we will receive his support eventually. He has to make that decision on his own time-frame. But I think it was a good discussion."
He continued: "There are some very basic issues here that need to be addressed that are not being addressed by the current senator, and he [Diaz] understands that. And so he wants someone who can be a partner in Albany to make sure we can take the Bronx in a better direction. That's what we talked about."