A week after the local building trades union endorsed state Sen. Leland Yee for San Francisco mayor, Yee has secured the backing of a major national public employee union, his campaign confirmed.
Locally, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest public service employee union in the nation, does not carry the financial and political heft of the San Francisco Labor Council. But the endorsement does signal Yee's strategy of courting labor behind the scenes, with eight months left until the election in November.
In San Francisco, AFSCME locals represent thousands of workers at the University of California, as well as county mental health workers and social service professionals. In recent months, Yee, a child psychologist, has embarked on a series of high-profile crusades in higher education, railing against the University of California Regents’ raises, tuition hikes across the system, and the fee that CSU Stanislaus paid for a Sarah Palin speaking engagement.
“Leland Yee has not only been a longtime champion for AFSCME members, he has often been a lone voice in standing up for the most vulnerable in our society - children, victims, the poor, and those with mental illness,” said Gerald W. McEntee, AFSCME's national president, in a statement.
The powerful San Francisco Labor Council has been locked in difficult negotiations over pension reform with city leaders and could be drawn into another pension battle at the ballot box in November. It is unlikley to make an endorsement until summer, observers say.
But Yee, who declared his intention to run just days after he won re-election in November, has not wasted any time.
While he juggles his senate duties, he has been warming up on the campaign trail at a time when most other candidates have focused on fundraising or sounding out supporters. Yee has zigzagged across his senate district almost every day, bouncing from coffee klatches to house parties, and gradually unfurling a platform grounded in small business development and education.
His senate communications staff has also been prolific. It has issued at least 13 press releases on a variety of topics since Feb. 1.