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City Health Care Workers' Union Lobbying For Mark-Viverito To Be Next Council Speaker

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Plenty of groups are trying to influence the City Council speaker's race, but one union in particular is putting itself front and center. NY1's Courtney Gross filed the following report.

The city's health care workers' union is having a good year, as 1199 SEIU is credited with making an instrumental early endorsement in this year's mayors race. Now, its sights are turned east, to the City Council chamber.

The union is out front and center, lobbying to make Melissa Mark-Viverito, a councilwoman from the Bronx and Manhattan, the next Council speaker.

"I'm not sure we have so much of an agenda. We just have a particularly good relationship with Melissa Mark-Viverito," said Kevin Finnegan of 1199 SEIU. "I think that it'll compliment Bill de Blasio and help him get his agenda done. I think she's the best candidate for that."

The speaker is selected by the council members, and the union helped elect some of those members this fall. They are now circling back to plead Mark-Viverito's case.

"Talking to individual members, talking to county leaders, sort of making her case for her with members that I know well, and there are a lot of them," Finnegan said.

Such public lobbying is relatively unprecedented in a race that typically occurs behind closed doors.

The candidate, a former employee of the union, saw no problem with it this week.

"Any sort of expressions of support, I welcome them," Mark-Viverito said. "I do not know exactly all the decisions that are being made."

They are not the only union getting involved. Both SEIU Local 32BJ and the hotel trades are backing the council's progressive caucus, which has yet to endorse a candidate.

These unions could challenge the long-standing tradition that the city's Democratic county leaders select the next council speaker.

Manhattan's leader, Assemblyman Keith Wright, told NY1 that the leaders hope to keep a united front, standing behind the same candidate. It's unclear if that person will be the same as 1199.

"We're just one of the many voices out there," Finnegan said.

With all of these players jockeying behind the scenes, it's still unclear who exactly City Council members will listen to, whether it's labor, county leaders or perhaps both.

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