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Lightfoot booed at annual fundraiser for first union to endorse her 2019 runoff campaign

One person said Lightfoot was “booed off the stage” when she was introduced at the annual event at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd., but a union official disputed that account, saying only “a couple of people” booed.

Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd.
Mayor Lori Lightfoot attended a fundraiser for Plumbers Union Local 130 at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington Blvd. on Sunday.
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Mayor Lori Lightfoot was booed at a fundraiser Sunday for Plumbers Union Local 130, the first union to endorse her in the 2019 runoff election against Toni Preckwinkle.

One attendee, who asked to remain anonymous, described Lightfoot as having been “booed off the stage” at the annual event at Plumbers Hall, 1340 W. Washington St., to raise money for Local 130’s political action committee — though a union official disputed that account.

The person requesting anonymity said Lightfoot “spoke for less than a minute. And there was a resounding booing throughout the room. Almost deafening, ... I was sitting at the table with a bunch of plumbers. They’re like, `We’ve never heard that before here.’ … Clearly, their membership is not with her. ... They were calling her names. It was bad.”

Pat McCarthy, the union’s recording secretary, acknowledged Lightfoot was booed during halftime of the Bears’ loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

But McCarthy also insisted the mayor was “able to finish her remarks, got a cheer at the end,” then returned to her seat and watched the rest of the game.

“I was there when she was speaking. There were a couple of people in the corner that booed. But it was nothing significant. And it didn’t disrupt the event at all,” McCarthy said.

“I would have to suspect whoever was booing at that event was not a member of this local. … We respect her and we have no problems with the mayor.”

Ald. Silvana Tabares (23rd), however, said a close friend who attended the event showed her a video of the mayor being booed.

Union President Jim Majerowicz said he was downstairs counting money for the football pool when Lightfoot took the stage.

“I didn’t hear nothin’ … I was in a different room, so I can’t say,” Majerowicz said. “You’re telling me some shocking stuff. I find it hard to believe.”

As for the recent changes to the plumbing code that paved the way for increased use of plastic pipe, Majerowicz said, “We’ve been working with the mayor’s office on that. We’ve been supporting the mayor since Day One. We were the first union to support the mayor. She’s been here numerous times at meetings and stuff. She’s a great partner of ours. I just find it hard to believe.”

Business manager Jim Coyne introduced the mayor to Sunday’s crowd of over 1,000 people.

“I did not hear any booing,” he said. “That’s kind of impossible at Plumbers Hall. She’s loved by the plumbers. People wanted to get in line and take pictures with her.”

Whatever happened, Lightfoot’s political director Dave Mellet called it much ado about nothing.

The union was the first to endorse Lightfoot in the April 2019 runoff and contributed $58,700 to her runoff campaign. This time, “the mayor will seek their endorsement. They have a great relationship. And I would expect them to be on her team in 2023,” Mellet said.

“I don’t believe that she was, quote-unquote, ‘booed’ at this event,” Mellet added. “I believe she was well received. There may have been a couple of people in the room who came in there to shout and be loud.”

At the March 2019 news conference where the union announced its endorsement of Lightfoot, Coyne said he was “proud and honored” to support a candidate who “has presented herself as someone who is very progressive” and will “fight for our plumbers and their families as well as working families” throughout Chicago.

Lightfoot then took the podium and praised Local 130’s dedication “to making sure that they are opening up doors of opportunity to a diverse class” of union apprentices.

“I really, really appreciate the energy and the devotion that this local has put into making sure that opportunity isn’t something that’s determined by zip code. That’s a critically important thing for our city. It sets exactly the right tone and pace. And I’m honored to be endorsed by this union,” Lightfoot said that day.