NEW YORK — The campaign of Bill Thompson, the presumptive Democratic nominee to challenge Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the November election, continues to pick up steam, this time gaining the endorsement of 15,000-member Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union (UFCW).

“The [Bloomberg] administration is trying to give tax breaks again to a developer who isn’t in turn going to give back to the community,” Thompson said upon accepting the local’s endorsement. He was referring to development at the Kingsbridge Armory, at West Kingsbridge Road in the Bronx.

The plan put forward by the Bloomberg administration is essentially a sweetheart deal between the city and The Related Companies, a big developer, to turn the armory into a city-subsidized mall.

The plan would allow Related to purchase the historic armory for $5 million, well below market value. According to the Kingsbridge Armory Redevelopment Alliance (KARA), the only benefits to the community in return for the city’s largesse, which would include $18 million in tax breaks, will be 1,200 low-wage non-union jobs and 3 percent of the space for non-profit community groups.

Part of the development would include a huge supermarket, which could threaten two locally owned — and unionized by RWDSU — supermarkets already in the area. Thus, a likely non-union supermarket with a competitive edge, due to tax subsidies from the city, could kill dozens or hundreds of union jobs.

Speaking of Bloomberg’s attitude towards Kingsbridge, Thompson said, “He isn’t going to provide good paying, long term jobs that our citizens need. That’s what this is about. RWDSU, they’ve been there. We’ve been working together over the years to improve the lives of ordinary New Yorkers. That’s what this election is about.”

RWDSU is a member of KARA, itself a coalition backed by community organizations, elected officials, religious groups and unions. The group says that the project should include space for four schools, union construction, jobs with a minimum pay rate of $10 per hour and health benefits, employees’ free choice to join unions, cultural and social programs and retailers that are socially useful. Further, KARA wants to ensure that all of the work be environmentally friendly.

Thompson praised the local as “a union that stands up and fights for working men and women in the city of New York, that stands up and fights to move their members into the middle class and good paying jobs.”

The pace of Thompson endorsements seems to be quickening: Within the past few weeks he’s picked up endorsements from several unions, including Transport Workers Union Local 100, one of the city’s most powerful, as well as from the Working Families Party. Analysts suggest that as the perception of an inevitable Bloomberg victory in November is chipped away, more and more unions and other organizations will jump on Thompson’s bandwagon.

dmargolis @ cpusa.org

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