Hospital Workers Union Backs
Kenney for Mayor

Announcement could decide the shape of the mayoral field.

jim kenney philly

Councilman Jim Kenney

The 2015 Philadelphia mayor’s campaign has officially begun.

Henry Nicholas, president of the National Union of Hospital & Health Care Employees Local 1199, said Thursday his organization will back Councilman Jim Kenney for the city’s top office. Nicholas said Kenney started his career as a member of that union.

“It’s time he was promoted to the top of the class,” Nicholas told Philly Mag. “We’ve been a good citizen. It’s time for an 1199 member to be in charge of city government.”

The announcement seemed likely to send dominoes falling in the still-nascent race. John Dougherty, the politically powerful business manager of the International Brotherhood Of Electrical Workers Local Union 98, had said earlier this year that he wanted to unify the city’s labor movement behind a single candidate. If Dougherty agrees to Nicholas’s endorsement, it’s expected a number of likely candidates — including Council President Darrell Clarke and City Controller Alan Butkovitz — might leave the field. State Sen. Anthony Williams, another likely contender, was already expecting to run without union support.

Whether Dougherty will agree to Nicholas’s endorsement, however, is unknown. He and an IBEW spokesman weren’t immediately available to comment. Kenney, an at-large councilman since 1992 who has not announced an intention to run for mayor, was also unavailable for immediate comment.

Nicholas, however, said that he’s still interested in unifying the city’s labor unions behind a single candidate. The endorsement, he indicated, is the beginning of the discussion — not the end.

“We will have a debate and a discussion and we’re committed to unifying and mobilizing,” Nicholas said. “Leadership is about leading, not waiting. I cast the first stone.”

But Nicholas also indicated he expects to have a major voice in that unifying effort, saying Local 1199 has 13,000 members and 8,000 retirees. “Johnny’s got the money and I’ve got the troops,” Nicholas said.

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