Dozens of union representatives pledged their support for District 7 Memphis City Council candidate, Michalyn Easter-Thomas, during a reception in her honor Thursday evening.
The city workers are hoping that their collaboration will help Easter-Thomas, a Shelby County educator, unseat her opponent, incumbent Councilman Berlin Boyd. The two will face off in a mandatory run-off election, November 14.
About 30 supporters from AFL-CIO, Teamsters, AFSCME Local 1733, IBEW, United Auto Workers, Communication Workers of America, Machinists, and United Steel Workers rallied for Easter-Thomas during the event in Midtown. Many of the leaders had spread their support among the nine District 7 candidates during the October 3 general election.
With Boyd and Easter-Thomas the two challengers left to face off in November, many are joining together in hopes of unseating the incumbent.
During the Oct. 3 Municipal Election, Boyd received 30 percent of the votes, while Easter-Thomas garnered 21 percent. Because neither candidate received a majority of the vote, a mandatory runoff is required.
“Boyd, as a council member, voted against city unions during their negotiations with the city 17/18 times, in the past two years alone, while voting again and again for corporate giveaways. As an individual he has openly disrespected constituents and voted to give city money to companies he himself works for like FedEx and the Beale Street Merchants Association” said Jeffrey Lichtenstein, Organizer for Memphis and West Tennessee AFL-CIO Central Labor Council.
“As a political figure, he takes gobs of corporate money and been a reliable bloc-making vote for the interests of big business and East Memphis developers. Our city is suffering. Working people deserve better.”
The New Tri-State Defender reached out to Boyd but had not heard back by the TSDMemphis.com post deadline.
Boyd came under fire when he headed up a task force on Beale Street security and said that he “forgot” to recuse himself from a vote that could have benefitted his then-client, the Beale Street Merchants Association. Later, he caught flak for not disclosing a potential conflict, when he failed to put his employment by FedEx Logistics — a company he helped moved downtown — on a state ethics form.
Boyd has said that his nondisclosure was an oversight and an “absolute mistake.”
“He was elected to serve, but he puts his interests over others,” Easter-Thomas said about her opponent. “This is the community speaking. This is what they are saying and I’m listening to all of that.”
Boyd has pointed to Easter-Thomas’ lack of experience, while touting his accomplishments, including the redevelopment of the Ed Rice Community Center, the Harbor Town Dog Park and the Driver’s License Reinstatement Amnesty Program. Still some union members said it’s not enough.
“I’m ready for Boyd to be gone,” said union member, Sweetrica Baker. “He’s voted against us every chance he got.”
Historically, runoffs in Shelby County have a much lower turnout than general elections. Union members said they’re focused on getting more voters to the polls.
“The unions are calling and mailing their members that live in District 7. They are also sending volunteers to the campaign headquarters to volunteer,” Lichtenstein said.
Runoff elections will also include District 1 candidates incumbent Sherman Greer and community activist Rhonda Logan.