Teamsters Local 25, the powerful Charlestown-based union that represents more than 11,500 Massachusetts workers and that backed the Democratic nominee for governor in 2014, endorsed Republican Governor Charlie Baker for reelection Thursday.
“He’s proven to be a great steward for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” president Sean M. O’Brien said in a telephone interview, cheering Baker’s job-creation efforts in the state. “He’s lived up to everything he said he was going to do on the job. I’m a firm believer that you support the best people for the job.”
O’Brien — who leads a union that represents UPS workers, Massport employees, school administrators, and people in many other sectors — also praised Baker’s bipartisan chops, saying, “It’s a good thing when you reach across the aisle.”
The nod marks an extraordinary shift for a union that worked to defeat the Republican in 2014.
O’Brien and his members hosted Democratic nominee Martha Coakley at a fiery union hall rally where she derided Baker as someone “who just sees numbers, who sees the bottom line, who doesn’t mind a cut even when it affects families or their health care or their jobs.”
But it’s not unprecedented for the local to endorse a Republican gubernatorial candidate. It backed Paul Cellucci’s 1998 campaign for governor.
The endorsement left other major union players in Massachusetts, who are deeply tied to the Democratic establishment, either tongue-tied or dismayed.
“Hello? You’re breaking up!” Massachusetts AFL-CIO president Steven A. Tolman said when asked about the Teamsters endorsement Thursday. “I can’t hear you. It sounds like you’re underwater,” said a laughing Tolman, who is a member of the Democratic State Committee.
Tolman said the Teamsters have had a history of not being partisan in their endorsements, and he added there are plenty of working people who do not support Baker.
A top official at the National Association of Government Employees, which represents about 16,000 state and local workers in Massachusetts, was not particularly pleased with the Teamsters’ endorsement.
“I’m a little disappointed in it given the way he’s treating state employees at the bargaining table,” said National President David J. Holway. “But I fully support their right to do whatever it is they did because I’m sure it’s what they think is in the best interests of their members.”
Baker, for his part, expressed gratitude for the nod.
“As an administration, we have been proud to work with labor representatives and employers on bipartisan policies that support working families, investing in the skill building programs, infrastructure and economic development opportunities that have attracted new growth and investment, while creating over 180,000 new jobs,” he said in a statement. “I am proud to have Teamsters Local 25’s endorsement for re-election, and look forward to our ongoing work with their leaders and members on these important issues in a second term.”
Three Democrats are running for their party’s gubernatorial nomination, hoping to take on Baker in November.
They are environmentalist and entrepreneur Bob Massie, former Newton mayor Setti Warren, and onetime state budget chief Jay Gonzalez.
The union has been in the news in recent years.
In August, four Teamsters accused of hurling racial epithets and sexist slurs at a “Top Chef” crew filming in Milton in 2014 were acquitted of federal extortion charges.
Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.