As chief of the city’s Central Labor Council, Brian McLaughlin advocates for the rights and pocketbooks of 1.5 million workers. As a member of the New York State Assembly, McLaughlin represents the people of Flushing. And as head of the New Century Democratic Club, he’s chief of a Democratic power base in Queens. For years, McLaughlin has insisted that wearing all these hats at once is not a conflict of interest.
But tell that to Arthur Cheliotes. Cheliotes, the longtime president of Local 1180 of the Communication Workers of America, is running for City Council in the 19th district, which covers Bayside, Whitestone and College Point. Cheliotes is the most prominent labor leader running for public office this year, and his members include about 7,500 city and nonprofit workers. The executive board of McLaughlin’s council has already endorsed Cheliotes, responding to his position that working people should run their own communities.
And McLaughlin? “Personally, it’s ludicrous if he does not endorse Cheliotes,” says one union insider. “How can you be a credible labor leader if you do not?”
McLaughlin’s answer is Tony Avella, a longtime foot soldier for the county Democratic Party, two-time loser for City Council (in 1991 and 1993), and leader of McLaughlin’s powerful New Century Democratic club. McLaughlin has already thrown a barbecue and fundraiser and gave $250 for Avella’s campaign. (“That’s not an endorsement. That’s support,” McLaughlin explained.) Chief of staff to State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky and a visible quality-of-life advocate in the neighborhood, Avella has served Assemblymember McLaughlin faithfully since he took office in 1992.
The Queens Democratic organization has also informally given the nod to Avella. Historically, Tom Manton’s candidates for borough races never lose–and McLaughlin, in the end, always toes the party’s line.
“I don’t envy his position,” Bill Henning, vice president of Local 1180, said of McLaughlin. “But that’s what happens when you straddle both camps.”