Winnipeg’s 2014 Mayoral race had front runner Judy Wasylycia-Leis endorsed by both the Winnipeg Labour Council and Fire Fighters Union and lost
Murray has picked up endorsements from the Winnipeg Labour Council and the Fire Fighters Union, which come with significant memberships. However, gaining a union endorsement far from guarantees a candidate the Mayor’s seat come October.
Political campaigns have their own specific economics. Part of that involves persuading voters to support a candidate. In that regard, union endorsements are a vital part of any campaign. While many political candidates refuse to seek such support, it’s important to understand the pros and cons of doing so. Failure to do so can lead to significant losses in elections and alienate the voting public.
Union endorsements come with a high cost to political candidates. Union leaders have the power to choose which candidates they believe are worthy of their backing. Neglecting union leaders can lead to significant losses in elections and alienate voters who might otherwise support your campaign. Additionally, many union members are active participants in their local politics via political donations or participation in voting booths. Turning away those members can severely impact an election’s success and alienate voters who might otherwise support you. As a result, it’s best for all political campaigns to avoid alienating union support as much as possible if they believe a union can alter an election.
Union support is unnecessary, but the dynamics can be challenging for many campaigns if you seek it. Many working-class voters rely on unions for employment and feel personally connected to them. As a result, refusing union support could significantly drop election turnout among working-class voters. In addition, many working-class voters identify as conservative or liberals, further alienating this demographic from any campaign that refuses union support.
On the other hand, refusing to seek a union endorsement happens all the time and is no longer detrimental to a candidate’s campaign or path to victory. In Winnipeg’s 2014 race for Mayor, high-profile candidate and seasoned politician Judy Wasylycia-Leis secured endorsements from the Winnipeg Labour Council and the Winnipeg Fire Fighters Union and lost to unknown lawyer Brian Bowan.
Not only did she lose, but she also lost very badly. Wasylycia-Leis lost by an almost two-to-one margin, with Bowman picking up 47.5% votes. Union endorsements are only influential if they can whip their members into voting as a block, which is hard to do. Furthermore, endorsements for candidates at the councillor and school trustee levels are irrelevant considering that union members reside throughout the city, making it impossible to vote as a block through each ward.
Voters tend to vote for candidates they believe have policies and similar ideologies. Furthermore, because there are still large segments of a voting population that are not a part of a union or have unfavourable opinions of organized labour associations, they are likely not to vote for candidates endorsed by them. In their view, elected officials shouldn’t go into office beholden to any group because decisions at the bureaucratic level will tend to favour unions rather than the public’s best interests.