City Comptroller John Liu landed a major endorsement for his mayoral campaign Wednesday from District Council 37, the city's largest public employee union, and the candidate told the gathered workers that municipal labor unions deserve retroactive pay raises.
Lillian Roberts, the executive director of DC 37, said at the endorsement on the steps of City Hall that her union voted unanimously to support Liu because it views him as the biggest supporter of organized labor.
"We were stirred by the efforts of John Liu, who's been standing up and taking a position, and that's it. We have nothing against anybody else," Roberts said.
Back in 2009, DC 37 endorsed William Thompson for mayor, Bill de Blasio for public advocate and Liu for city comptroller. Now, all three men are running to be the Democratic mayoral nominee.
Currently, every single municipal labor union is working without a contract and DC 37 has joined the number of unions asking for retroactive pay raises. Liu said at his endorsement that the unions deserve at least a partial retroactive raise.
"Moving forward, there is going to be negotiations. It's probably not going to be the entire amount of the retroactivity, but it's not going to be zero either," Liu said. "And the reason why it can't be zero is because that would not be fair to the city worker."
Mayor Michael Bloomberg said that retroactive raises could cost the city more than $7 billion.
"A big raise would devastate the city," he said.
It's dicey territory for the mayoral candidates, who are in the process of courting the city's unions for coveted endorsements, support that comes with manpower.
"This isn't about politics," said Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn. "This is about negotiating contracts that are fair to workers, respect their work, and that are fair to taxpayers in the long and short term."
"I'm not ruling anything out or putting anything on the table," Thompson said. "I think it's a question of sitting down and starting the work, and negotiate as mayor."
So far, labor has split its support among the Democrats.
The health care workers' union, Local 1199, is backing Bill de Blasio.
The retail workers are for Quinn.
There still are a number of major unions up for grabs, including the teachers' union and the building service workers.
The teachers' union is expected to make its coveted endorsement next month.
Last week, the Communications Workers of America Local 1180, a union that is spending money on campaign ads opposing the Democratic mayoral front-runner, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, also endorsed Liu.
Liu's campaign received a blow earlier this month when two former campaign associates were convicted on attempted wire fraud charges.
Liu was never accused of wrongdoing in connection with the case.