Both chapters of the Service Employees International Union that operate in Cleveland announced their endorsement of mayoral candidate Justin Bibb Wednesday, signaling their desire for a new brand of leadership with a commitment to working people at City Hall.
SEIU District 1199, the union representing social service and healthcare workers in West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, had supported State Sen. Sandra Williams in the primary election. Williams is a former corrections officer and former SEIU member. But the shifting support to Bibb is not unexpected, given Bibb's general election opponent, Kevin Kelley. SEIU 1199 has butt heads repeatedly with Kelley over policy matters in Cleveland, especially during the local Fight for $15.
SEIU Local 1, the union representing 1,700 janitors and other service workers in Cleveland and 50,000 members across its total service area, announced its endorsement at a press conference.
Yanela Sims is SEIU Local 1's Ohio Director. She said it's time for Cleveland to have bold new leadership that's unafraid to represent all working people, not just business interests.
"Most of Cleveland is compiled of working class, everyday people who for too long have been forgotten," she said. "SEIU Local 1 members are essential workers. They were essential before Covid, they were essential during Covid, and they'll be essential after Covid. We need a representative in our city that acknowledges that and recognizes the importance of workers."
Sims said that SEIU Local 1 sees Bibb as a "new shining light," one that Cleveland desperately needs. She said SEIU Local 1 believes Bibb can provide new ideas while also understanding the necessities of working people: higher wages, better benefits, safer working conditions and more.
Bibb said he was honored and humbled to accept the endorsement, and likened his campaign to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, who Bibb noted was rallying for janitors in Memphis immediately before his assassination in 1968.
"My campaign is really the Dr. King story," Bibb said. "He said that America cannot wait, that the working class cannot wait. And Cleveland cannot wait for a mayor who's going to be a fighter for the working class, a fighter for service workers, a fighter for janitors."
Bibb said, as he has before, that it won't just be his name on the ballot in November. Racial and economic justice will be on the ballot, too. He said that in his administration, workers would have a seat at the table, and he committed to fighting for essential workers "day in and day out."
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