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Dean Wins Support of Two Key Unions

October 28, 2003|Hugo Martin | Times staff writer

Presidential hopeful Howard Dean, already the top fund-raiser among Democratic contenders, has won the support of two key unions, the California Teachers Assn. and an international painters union.

The endorsements not only bolster Dean's campaign fewer than three months before the first primary contest, but they also cut into labor support for rival Rep. Richard A. Gephardt (D-Mo.), a stalwart union supporter for more than 25 years.

Gephardt has won the support of 20 unions and hopes to get the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, the umbrella labor organization that represents more than 13 million workers.

Unions could play a pivotal role in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 19, the first contest of the presidential primaries.

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades, with 140,000 members, is the first international union to endorse Dean, former governor of Vermont.

The California Teachers Assn., with 333,000 members, is an affiliate of the National Education Assn., one of the nation's largest unions, with 2.7 million members. The national organization has yet to make an endorsement.

California Teachers Assn. Vice President David Sanchez said the group's leadership, comprised of nearly 700 teachers from across the state, made the endorsement Sunday after the group's regular meeting in Los Angeles.

A teachers association committee interviewed every major Democratic candidate, Sanchez said. President Bush did not respond to the group's request for an interview, Sanchez said.

In addition to providing votes, unions can bolster a campaign by providing thousands of workers to distribute fliers, attend rallies and campaign door-to-door at no cost to the candidate.

Sanchez said Dean won the endorsement because he was the most knowledgeable about issues concerning teachers.

In particular, he said, Dean voiced strong criticism of President Bush's education initiative, the "No Child Left Behind" program.

James Williams, general president of the painters union, which is based in Washington, D.C., said his group announced its endorsement Monday after surveying its rank-and-file members and finding they overwhelmingly backed Dean.

Williams said if he could get each member to contribute two days to Dean's campaign, the union would be able to provide more than 250,000 days' worth of volunteer time for the candidate.

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