St. Paul’s ‘labor mayor,’ Coleman has earned a third term in office

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, pictured second from right, has broad support from labor in his bid for re-election.

St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, pictured second from right, has broad support from labor in his bid for re-election.

Since being sworn in as mayor in 2006, Chris Coleman has been standing up for St. Paul’s working families. On Nov. 5, working families have an opportunity to stand up for Coleman by reelecting the DFL mayor to a third term in office.

Coleman earned labor’s endorsement, union leaders and activists said, by bringing structural balance to the city’s budget without sacrificing essential public services, and by supporting economic development that creates good-paying jobs. The mayor also has maintained a no-fuss relationship with unions that represent city workers.

Project1_Layout 1“He really understands the value of public service and the value of the work AFSCME members and other public employees do for the City of St. Paul,” said Jim Niland, political director for Council 5 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents workers throughout the city.

Coleman “will go down in history as a good labor mayor,” according to Harry Melander, president of the St. Paul Building and Construction Trades Council.

Melander pointed to a flurry of construction projects afoot within the city limits that have provided much-needed employment for Building Trades members. The list includes the new St. Paul Saints ballpark in Lowertown, the Penfield and West Side Flats housing developments and the Central Corridor light-rail transit line.

“Mayor Coleman has been real instrumental in trying to move development projects like these forward both in town and in the region,” Melander said.

As a result, Building Trades unions trust Coleman’s leadership in guiding development over the next four years. Likely development sites include the Twin Cities Assembly Plant in Highland Park, the former 3M property on St. Paul’s East Side (now called Beacon Bluff), the former Macy’s downtown and multiple properties along the Central Corridor line.

Transit projects like the Green Line, Coleman said, are key to St. Paul’s economic future, but the competition for federal and state funding is fierce. He believes the East Metro Transit Alliance, a public-private partnership developed with Coleman’s leadership, will “jumpstart” efforts to draw future transit investments to the area.

“One clear lesson we learned as we fought to build the Green Line was that if we in the East Metro are not fighting hard for transit investment, we can’t expect anyone else to do it,” Coleman said. “When we came together to advocate for the Central Corridor, we were a force to be reckoned with.”

Relationship building has been a hallmark of Coleman’s tenure as mayor, whether it’s public-private partnerships like the transit alliance or partnerships with other government entities like the St. Paul Board of Education or the Minnesota Legislature.

“He’s been a real partner with us in terms of improving public services and also advocating with us at the Capitol for full funding of public services,” AFSCME’s Niland said.

For union members, that remains the most important bridge built by Coleman – the one between City Hall and the city’s employees. Union leaders credit Coleman for taking a collaborative approach to the city’s budget issues during tough economic times, and for approaching unions as partners, rather than adversaries, in decisions that affect staffing.

“Mayor Coleman has done a great job trying to make sure there have been no layoffs at the city,” Melander said. “If there were reductions in departments, people were moved around to continue to have employment.”

Paul Slattery, an organizer for Teamsters Local 120, which represents workers in St. Paul’s Department of Public Works, called Coleman “a dedicated friend to the labor movement who supports the right of every worker to bargain collectively for a union contract.”

For Coleman, the relationship with labor is a two-way street. He supports workers because, in turn, Coleman knows he can count on workers’ support.

“We know that we are stronger when we act together, and it is important that we continue to advocate and fight for St. Paul,” Coleman said.

“Mayor Coleman has been on the forefront of creating a labor friendly environment throughout the City of St. Paul,” said St. Paul Regional Labor Federation President Bobby Kasper. “As mayor, he has promoted multiple development projects that have enhanced employment opportunities for our union brothers and sisters.”

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