Philadelphia News & Search
In accepting the endorsement of eight building trade unions Wednesday night for Democratic candidate for district attorney, John “Jack” O’Neill vowed to help the unions by creating a labor liaison position within the District Attorney’s Office.
“A District Attorney’s Office that supports labor, that works with labor is a district attorney that works with and for Philadelphia,” O’Neill said to a standing-room only crowd of more than 200 union workers at the Plumbers Union Local 690 Hall in Northeast Philadelphia. “As your district attorney, as one of my first acts in the first 30 days, I will appoint a deputy of labor liaison.”
Applause broke out among the crowd that included members of the sprinkler fitters, ironworkers, and communication workers unions. O’Neill continued: “So that every one of you will have direct and constant communication with a person who understands what you need and who sticks up for you.”
O’Neill, 35, worked for 10 years as an assistant district attorney before deciding to run for the top post himself. He was one of the last seven Democratic candidates to throw his hat in the ring. He also came second to last in the first round of fund raising.
Wednesday night’s endorsement was significant in that he will now have an army of union workers raising money on his behalf and sending campaign literature to voters endorsing O’Neill. But whether that will give him a lead in a seven-way race without an incumbent running or the local Democratic Party making an endorsement remains to be seen.
Other candidates have received big endorsements, including former city Managing Director Rich Negrin, who was endorsed by the Fraternal Order of Police, and civil-rights attorney Larry Krasner, who was endorsed by the local healthcare workers union. In addition, Krasner is receiving outside help from a political action committee backed by billionaire George Soros.
Nevertheless, O’Neill felt confident Wednesday night.
“This mean everything,” O’Neill said in an interview following the rally. “To have this level of support … is humbling, inspiring. I can’t even put it into words.”
But is the endorsement and his decision to implement a labor liaison position a sign that O’Neill is already too close with the union?
“No,” he said, noting that unions provide training and jobs to many Philadelphians.
“Good paying jobs need someone supporting them. When you have situation, for example, where someone illegally classifies a job the wrong way so that they can rip off their workers or so that they can avoid paying things the law requires them to pay, it only makes sense to have a DA’s office that supports the law,” he said
Wayne Miller, president of the Philadelphia Building Trades Council and head of the Sprinklerfitters Local 696, said that his union and others who endorsed O’Neill Wednesday night liked his confidence and 10 years’ experience as prosecutor. He is planning to a full campaign effort to get O’Neill elected.
“Nobody puts people on the street like we do,” Miller said in an interview. “You’re not going to get elected unless you have the building trades behind you.”
Philadelphia News & Search