A graphic from 2012 contemplated Joel
Young's next move. It may be another four
years at AC Transit.
After showing strong interest to run against Young, both Igor Tregub and Tyron Jordan changed their minds as the filing deadline came and went last Friday. Although Young has a list of negatives like no other local public official and would appear vulnerable this fall, the realization Young’s campaign coffers might be aided by transit labor unions sealed the deal. Young’s power of the incumbency along with the cost and logistics of running a county-wide race for the at-large seat were already big positives in his favor. This comes despite allegations Young he hit his girlfriend in 2011, spit in the face of an Oakland council aide, shortly after, and then betrayed the Service Employees International Union after they partially endorsed his run for the State Assembly in 2012.
Based on this knowledge, Tregub, a strong labor supporter, said he saw the writing on the wall and, instead, out of deference to the unions, announce in an email to supporters that he would not seek office. However, a surprising thing occurred later that night when union members, primarily from SEIU, but not entirely, registered strong disapproval of Young’s potential endorsement by the Alameda Labor Council and they had good reason.
Two years ago, SEIU made the unprecedented move of stripping Young of his endorsement for the 18th Assembly District primary race. Young, along with Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen—all Democrats—received the powerful union’s joint backing. But, later, as Young’s candidacy was taking on water over his domestic violence case, his campaign switched gears and began searching for support outside the typical progressive bloc of voters. When SEIU learned Young was using his opponent’s confidential union questionnaires to gather votes by portraying them as too liberal, their anger was clearly evident and publicly rebuked Young and pulled their support for his campaign. After last week, it seems SEIU has a long memory.
It is not surprising for the transit unions to show support for Young. Not only are they familiar with him as a AC Transit board member, but Young’s transgressions last year that forced his colleagues to censure him, in fact, was an act that directly helped transit unions in other locales. As an attorney for a Berkeley law firm, Young worked on two separate cases involving other transit agencies in a similar case to one AC Transit was involved and had previously paid out $12 million in damages. Young then used closed session information from his duties on the AC Transit board and parlayed those insights to help draft legal responses for his clients. The AC Transit board voted, 5-0, to censure Young for using his position to personal enrich himself.
The outcry last week from SEIU effectively blocked Young from receiving enough for votes for the endorsement. Instead the Alameda Labor Council voted for an open endorsement, which allows local unions to decide who they want to endorse in the fall. SEIU’s intervention briefly allowed Tregub to seriously rethink last week his decision to drop out of the race. However, on Friday, the last day to qualify for the ballot, Tregub said he reverted to his original decision and had no desire to potential divide the unions. In the meantime, the AC Transit At-Large race is set for three candidates: Young, former AC Transit bus driver Dollene Jones, who ran for the Ward 3 seat in 2012 and Adrienne Andrews.