Do you support Suffolk Downs’ proposal to be granted a license to build a resort gaming facility on its property located in East Boston? Would you contact the Greater Boston Labor Council prior to Wal-Mart seeking formal approval to locate in Boston? Do you support or oppose the creation of an independent commission to oversee the taxi industry?
Those were some of the queries put to mayoral hopefuls in the Greater Boston Labor Council’s questionnaire. Their answers were used to create questions for a June 27 forum, which featured 10 candidates on the stage at IBEW Local 103. After the forum, the council, through a voice vote, threw its support behind state Rep. Marty Walsh, a longtime legislator and labor leader.
But despite multiple requests for a copy of their answers, most campaigns, including Walsh’s camp, declined to release their filled-out questionnaires. Just two mayoral candidates – Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley and Codman Square Health Center co-founder Bill Walczak – furnished their completed questionnaires. District 5 Councillor Rob Consalvo, who did not make it to the forum due to a previously scheduled campaign event, released a letter his campaign sent to the labor council outlining his views. Community organizer John Barros’s team didn’t have an extra copy of their answers to the questionnaire.
The head of the council, which says it represents 161 local unions and includes 35,000 union families in the city, said that the council would not be releasing candidates’ answers. At the forum, Rich Rogers, the GBLC’s executive secretary-treasurer, directed the Reporter to the individual campaigns and provided a blank copy of the questionnaire instead.
The questionnaire featured top priorities for the city’s unions and a host of public policy questions, such as a casino at Suffolk Downs, which would lead to new jobs (and potential union workers) in construction and in the casino industry.
Walczak, who supports a citywide vote on an agreement between City Hall and Suffolk Downs, wrote that he does not support a casino in East Boston. “I will abide by the vote but would like to see alternatives that create jobs in the event that the vote fails,” he said.
Conley, in his questionnaire, commented, “I have taken the position that any support for a casino in East Boston should be contingent upon a citywide referendum that wins the support of a majority of the residents of the city and of East Boston.”
In his letter, Consalvo, who backs an Eastie-only vote, said he supported Suffolk Downs’ bid to build a casino in the neighborhood.
The questionnaire also asked about Walmart, which explored opening a store in Roxbury in 2011. Mayor Thomas Menino opposed the move, saying the big-box retailer would destroy local businesses.
“I do not support Wal-Mart locating in the city of Boston and as mayor will oppose such a move,” Conley wrote.
Consalvo wrote that he expects that “all firms – including Wal-Mart – to permit employees to choose freely whether they would like to form a union.”
Walczak, who once worked as an organizer for the United Farm Workers, said in the questionnaire he would contact the GBLC before Wal-Mart seeks formal approval to locate in Boston and would make it a pre-condition that Walmart use union labor.
Asked about whether there should be an independent commission overseeing the tax industry, instead of the Boston Police Department, Walczak said he supported a commission.
The Boston Globe earlier this year offered up an investigative report chronicling the mistreatment of cab drivers, many of them immigrants.
Walczak said he supported changing the classification of drivers to employees from independent contractors, allowing them to be organized under the United Steelworkers/Boston Taxi Drivers banner.
Conley, in his response, said he supported Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis’ crackdown on abuse and efforts to “ensure that workers who may have been mistreated or denied wages due to them are compensated.” Conley said he supports Menino’s order of an independent review of the industry and awaits its findings.
Consalvo holds a similar view, saying he wants to “see the outcomes before any decisions are made.”
The other candidates running for mayor include City Councillor At-Large Felix Arroyo; TOUCH 106.1 FM co-founder Charles Clemons, who did not attend the labor council's forum; City Councillor At-Large John Connolly; former state Rep. Charlotte Golar Richie; District 8 Councillor Michael Ross; Roxbury resident David James Wyatt; and District 4 Councillor Charles Yancey.