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Area labor groups tell Dooley that they likely won't be in his camp for 2014

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 16, 2013: Representatives of three of the St. Louis region’s top labor organizations told St. Louis County Executive Charlie Dooley this afternoon that they won’t endorse his re-election next year.

“We don’t see Charlie as the ally that we saw him once before,” said Jeff Aboussie, secretary-treasurer of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council.

“It seems like our relationship has deteriorated in the last two or three years,” Aboussie went on. “We decided as a group that we’re going to do something different.”

Bob Soutier, president of the Greater St. Louis Labor Council – which includes the building trades and most other area union groups – left open the possibility that labor may change its mind in the 2014 general election but added, “it doesn’t appear we would endorse him in the primary.”

Loss of union support could be devastating for Dooley, a Democrat, if he has a strong Democratic rival next year – such as County Councilman Steve Stenger, D-Affton.

Aboussie, Soutier and Earline Jones, local head of the Communications Workers of America, met privately with Dooley this afternoon to deliver the news. The decision had been made during this morning’s meeting of the leaders of the 28 union locals who make up the Labor Council.

The vote against Dooley was "overwhelming," Soutier said.

However, area Republicans have yet to come up with a strong county executive contender. Soutier predicted that labor will return to Dooley's corner if the GOP nominates an anti-union candidate.

Labor unions long have been a key bloc for area Democrats, providing volunteers and financial donations, as well as votes. About 100,000 St. Louis County residents are union members, retirees or a member of their family, labor leaders said.

Dooley’s previous elections – in 2004, 2006 and 2010 – involved hefty union involvement.

Soutier said that Dooley’s recent appointment of Republican Dave Spence to the county’s Police Board was “the last straw,” but added that other concerns have been roiling for some time.

Aboussie noted that Spence, as the 2012 GOP candidate for governor, had supported right-to-work – a top concern among Missouri unions since such legislation would bar unions or employers from collecting dues from all workers if a majority at a workplace agree to union representation.

Both labor leaders cited various Dooley appointments to numerous boards that they said the county executive had filled without seeking labor input.

“We felt that the government of St. Louis County and the county executive was definitely moving in a different direction,” Aboussie said. “We decided, rather than let him hear it from somebody else, to let him know we won’t be supporting him this election cycle.”

Monday evening, Dooley released the following statement:

“Labor has had no better friend than Charlie A. Dooley. Nobody agrees on anything 100 percent of the time but I will put my record of support for labor up against anyone’s. I am proud of my long history with labor and this won’t change that.

I will not be deterred from doing the things I’ve been doing to create jobs and economic opportunity for the thousands of working men and women who represent the union membership.

St. Louis County is recovering from a devastating recession and I will continue to do my best to make sure members of labor get back to work and are stronger than ever.

We have more than $1 billion construction projects slated to get underway this year with more business expansion and job creation ready to launch over the next two years. Our labor community will benefit from our efforts to create those opportunities. That’s what I’ve been doing and that’s what I will continue to do.

Jo Mannies is a freelance journalist and former political reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.