Even public-sector unions favor old-style incumbent Democrats to radical insurgents like her.
When Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her upset victory against Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley in 2018, she had the backing of the Democratic Socialists of America. What she lacked was a single endorsement from New York’s powerful unions. Since then, candidates supported by the DSA have scored more wins against union-supported incumbents. As New York heads into an election cycle that will shape the politics of America’s largest city for the next four years, unions and the DSA are on a collision course.
New York’s unions are a heterodox group, ranging from public-sector outfits like the United Federation of Teachers and District Council 37, which cherish the rich compensation they’ve won for members over the years, to more conservative trade unions like the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, which benefit when the city’s economy grows. Despite their sometimes divergent interests, these unions have always found enough common cause to become a central force in the city’s Democratic coalition. But they were caught off guard by Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s appeal, especially in gentrifying neighborhoods where recently arrived young progressives embraced her antiestablishment campaign.
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