Unions Turn Backs on Labor-Friendly Republicans

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BUFFALO, N.Y. - Two-term Republican Rep. Jack Quinn has one of the strongest pro-labor voting records in the 104th Congress, and his close ties to labor helped him win re-election in 1994.

But a national push by labor unions to help Democrats regain control of Congress has corroded these close ties. Mr. Quinn will face the voters in this heavily Democratic district without the labor unions' backing this fall, and the outcome of his race will help measure how much control labor leaders have over rank-and-file voters.

"I was surprised," Mr. Quinn said of his reaction when he heard that the Buffalo Labor Relations Council endorsed his Democratic opponent, state Assemblyman Francis Pordum.

Mr. Quinn called council President John Kaczorowski to seek a reversal, but he was not successful.

"We even told him if he were a Democrat he wouldn't be having this problem," said Mr. Kaczorowski, who heads the council representing 160,000 area workers. "About 90 of us must have told him that."

Mr. Quinn is now appealing to state AFL-CIO officials, who will announce their endorsements in mid-September.

Suzy Ballantyne, executive director of the New York AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education, said the state sometimes overturns local recommendations, but at this point it is not clear what will happen.

"We have supported moderate Republicans in the past, but we don't know what will happen this time," she said. "Basically, we don't feel that the labor agenda has progressed much this year."

It appears the union leaders liked Mr. Quinn better when he voted with them as a member of the minority party. As he's thought about it, Mr. Quinn is not sure what more he can do for labor.

Consider his record. In 1993 he voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and led the fight for family and medical leave legislation. In the summer of 1994 he undermined GOP efforts to sink President Clinton's crime bill. And this year he has opposed passage of the TEAM Act, a pending labor-management proposal that organized labor loathes. He also helped write the bill to increase the minimum wage by 90 cents an hour.

Mr. Quinn's vote on NAFTA, his support of the crime bill and his work on family and medical leave earned him the endorsement of the local AFL-CIO in the 1994 campaign.

Unions across New York are debating whether to endorse pro-labor Republicans or support the Democratic effort to reclaim control of Congress.

"Republicans managed to do for the Democrats what they could never do for themselves: unite labor behind them," said Rep. Peter T. King, a Republican who represents Long Island, home of many builders unions.

Mr. King said this year he would be "pursuing their endorsements more vigorously in view of all that has gone on."

Jack Caffey, vice president of the Seafarers International Union of North America and president of the Long Island AFL-CIO, said that although he supports Mr. King, he is not sure the state AFL-CIO will do so.

"We are going to have to show them on a state level what it means to us," Mr. …