Unions divided in Lipinski/Newman Illinois Democratic House primary

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U.S. Rep. Dan Lipinski (left) and Marie Newman, who is running again against him in the 3rd Congressional District Democratic primary. | James Foster/For the Sun-Times

WASHINGTON — Mirroring divides in the Democratic Party, organized labor is split in the heated Democratic Illinois primary pitting Rep. Dan Lipinski against challenger Marie Newman.

This battle for the third congressional district seat is the biggest Democratic House primary in Illinois, and endorsements are picking up for each contender as early balloting for the March 20 election gets underway. In Illinois, the deadline to mail out ballots to overseas and military voters is Saturday.

In the past weeks, Lipinski has won endorsements from a stack of building trade unions, the Illinois AFL-CIO and the Chicago Federation of Labor.

On Friday, Newman landed the backing of the SEIU Illinois State Council which includes SEIU Local 1, SEIU 73 and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas.

SEIU Local 1 and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas are part of the investors group that bought the Sun-Times last year.

In announcing SEIU’s support for Newman at a press conference in Chicago, Tom Balanoff, SEIU Illinois State Council president, referenced a recent Chicago Sun-Times editorial board meeting with both 3rd District candidates. Balanoff said Lipinski’s lack of support for a $15-an-hour minimum wage was pivotal.

“This just shows once again that Congressman Lipinski is out of touch with his constituents,” Balanoff said. “His poor voting record shows he does not share our values.”

“Marie Newman is a progressive champion that third District working families need in congress,” Balanoff said.

The Lipinski campaign said in a statement, “Lipinski has a very strong 92 percent voting record of support for working families, that is why he received the endorsement of the 900,000 member strong Illinois AFL-CIO (which SEIU is a member of).”

As for the $15 minimum wage, the statement added, “In Congress, he is a cosponsor of the bill to raise the minimum wage to $15 . . . ”

However, that bill was introduced on May 25, 2017. Lipinski added his name to the bill on Jan. 29, House records show. Lipinski and Newman discussed the minimum wage in a Jan. 24 meeting at the Sun-Times.

Also from the statement: Lipinski, “has fought all attempts by President Trump and House Republicans to undermine organizing rights for working men and women.”

Lipinski’s voting record in Congress puts him right of center. This March 20 election will show if the Democratic nature of this district is changing.

It’s a test of the new movement versus the old Chicago machine.

The heavily Democratic district was drawn by House Speaker Mike Madigan D-Chicago, also the chair of the Democratic Party of Illinois, to protect Lipinski. A big chunk of his vote comes from what’s left of the Chicago machine wards: 11, 13, 14, 19 and 23. But in the 2016 March primary, Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in this district and Newman is trying to harness this potential pool of newly engaged Democrats.

She has the endorsement of the Sanders group in Illinois, called Our Revolution, headed by Clem Balanoff, who is Tom Balanoff’s cousin.

Different unions have different issues and agendas.

For example, the $15-per-hour minimum wage is not a crusade for the better paid building trade unions. It is a big deal for the unions representing low-wage workers. Newman backs the $15 base wage; Lipinski did not until he signed onto that higher wage measure on Jan. 29. Also, the building trade unions are usually focused more on making sure government-funded construction projects are in the pipeline. Lipinski is on the House Transportation panel.

With abortion rights an issue in this contest — Newman supports abortion rights, and Lipinski does not — Newman on Friday also won the endorsement of EMILY’s List.

EMILY’s List is the influential organization boosting viable female Democratic candidates with its considerable fundraising ability. Other abortion rights groups such as NARAL jumped in earlier to help Newman, and EMILY’s List hanging back until now drew notice.

Lipinski received $9,260 in donations this election cycle from the Susan B. Anthony List, an organization whose purpose is “to pass laws that protect unborn children and their mothers from abortion.”

Gloria Steinem, the well known author and feminist, headlines a $100-per-ticket fundraiser for Newman on Sunday. The hosts include Cook County Commissioner Bridget Gainer. And on Saturday, the Illinois Federation of Teachers announced their endorsement of Newman, citing Lipinski’s support of charter schools and vouchers. In the announcement, the teachers’ union noted that more than 5,000 of its members live in the 3rd district.


  • National Weather Service Employees Organization
  • Insulators Local 17
  • Illinois AFL-CIO
  • Ironworkers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity
  • Transport Workers Union
  • Chicago Federation of Labor
  • Transportation Division of the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers (SMART TD)
  • Transportation Communications Union/International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
  • The International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, Iron Ship Builders, Blacksmiths, Forgers and Helpers


  • SEIU Illinois State Council, which includes SEIU Local 1, SEIU 73 and SEIU Healthcare Illinois Indiana Missouri Kansas
  • National Nurses United
  • Illinois Federation of Teachers

Contributing: Stefano Esposito

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