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Friday, January 6, 2012

Chris Daly Goes to Work for SEIU

Posted By on Fri, Jan 6, 2012 at 12:55 PM

click to enlarge Chris Daly shows 'em how to vote...
  • Chris Daly shows 'em how to vote...

Critics and supporters alike of Chris Daly can smile and state the former supe now works for Big Labor -- officially.

An article in the Guardian feted Daly's recent appointment as the SEIU Local 1021 interim political director as a modern-day return from Elba. Not surprisingly Daly's new gig was portrayed in that story as a transcendent moment that will usher in a return of all that's right and good.

The former supervisor is unarguably a man with a great deal of talent, panache, and drive. But, as with all things Daly, this move carries potential benefits -- and detriments.

First the benefits.

Daly made his bones as a labor organizer, and that's the job he's returning to -- and not a moment too soon for the SEIU 1021. The union representing roughly half of the city's employees is organized labor in name only -- it is an extremely fractious and unruly body that has been unable to speak with one voice or keep its members on point and on the same page.

The SEIU was the only vestige of the city family that could not snap into line to support Proposition C -- the "mayor's pension reform measure." Frustratingly to others involved in hammering out and passing that legislation, the city's biggest union bobbed and weaved in its support. In recent years, the Local 1021 has also embarrassed its leadership by repeatedly voting down contract deals.

Daly could go along way toward herding these cats. He and the union are longtime allies

and ideological partners. When Daly was railing against last year's

"Twitter Tax Break" on mid-Market, he was working in lockstep with the SEIU.

When Daly in 2009 ran unsuccessfully for the obscure position of

Democratic Party regional chair, establishment choice August Longo

received many of the labor endorsements. But the dirty work undertaken on Daly's behalf just happened to be spearheaded by a local SEIU organizer.

Ain't no party like a Chris Daly party because a Chris Daly party don't stop
  • Ain't no party like a Chris Daly party because a Chris Daly party don't stop
Ain't no party like a Chris Daly party because a Chris Daly party don't stop

So the opportunity is certainly there for a firebrand organizer to focus and galvanize the disheveled union. But jumping up and down and yelling isn't enough -- Mike Singetary's tenure with the 49ers taught us that. It helps to have smarts and skills -- and jump up and down and yell. Daly could be the SEIU's Jim Harbaugh.

Having Chris Daly whipping your troops into order and directing the SEIU's money and organizational power where he sees fit -- in an election year -- could be a great move for the union.

On the other hand -- with Daly there's always an other hand. His agile brain and savvy have not managed to offset his abrasive personality and penchant for self-destructive behavior. Almost exactly a year ago, Daly told Supervisor David Chiu he would "haunt you politically." Yet it's Daly's own progressive faction and allies that he haunts -- politically and otherwise.

And now he's back. Back from the dead so to speak.

If Daly's new role gives Chiu and Jane Kim -- whom Daly has gone out of his way to vilify and belittle -- the opportunity for payback, payback may be in order. It's hard to see how this move helps SEIU-backed legislation achieve six votes at the Board of Supervisors. And the ability to tie anything -- anything -- to Daly is a godsend for the city's moderates. Who needs to rationally argue a point when you can vaporize a progressive proposal simply by tying it to Daly?

On the other hand -- and in this case there's an other other hand -- the SEIU 1021's jurisdiction extends far beyond San Francisco. Daly has burned plenty of bridges in this city. But his skill set is certainly applicable elsewhere.

Messages left for Daly and SEIU leadership have not yet been returned. We're interested to hear what they have to say. And we're interested in what Daly has to do.

So are many others. As one voice within the city put it: "I thought I was done dealing with Chris Daly. Guess I'm not."

Update, 1:20 p.m.: Chris Daly returned our call. He was excited about his new position, which he referred to as a "calling." Much of his job will entail helping to formulate the union's positions on issues and candidates from here to the Oregon border -- and then directing the efforts to obtain those positions. He mentioned three supervisorial races in Mendocino county, where the union is currently working without a contract -- and new, more union-friendly representatives would make Daly and his colleagues happy.

Daly noted that his deep past in government has already paid dividends in union matters in Solano County -- even though his relationships with his former government colleagues weren't the greatest. It's safe to say that Daly is not on everyone's Christmas card list here, too. When asked if this presents a chance for some of his former colleagues to haunt him politically, he laughs. If that means undercutting 15,000 union workers, he's hoping his erstwhile colleagues aren't that petty.

It remains to be seen just how much Daly will be interacting with his former brethren. "The SEIU's relationship with Mayor Ed Lee is relatively strained right now," he said. "But we have to work with him. Whether I'm the guy they'll be sending in to talk to him -- probably not!"

Daly confirmed he'd be compensated in a manner more on par with his former line of work than his current gig as a bartender

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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