A labor union that is headquartered in New York and represents U.S. and Canadian hospitality workers would like to influence Vancouver voters to choose Anne McEnerny-Ogle for City Council.


Washington State’s Public Disclosure Commission (PDC) shows that a political action committee for the labor union UNITE HERE spent more than $32,000 on a political postcard for Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

McEnerny-Ogle is opposing Bill Turlay for Vancouver City Council Position No. 6.

Politcal action committees (PAC) are required to file regular reports disclosing their disbursements and this one was filed Oct. 20, within two days of the piece being mailed by an out-of-area printer in Sacramento. The large postcard carries the headline, “911 = LIVES.” This appears over a hand-drawn storyboard that shows a ringing phone that goes unanswered.

The large postcards paid for by UNITE HERE

On the flip side of the mailer the illustration shows a phone answered in half the time, and additional panels show an ambulance arriving at the hospital. The text reads, “Our emergency response times are getting longer…because of bad budget decisions by the City Council.” Endorsements by the Vancouver Police Officers and Vancouver Firefighters are noted, neither of which drive ambulances.

UNITE HERE’s ties to the community are embedded in the hospitality industry. They represent workers at the Hilton Vancouver who are currently negotiating a new contract. Negotiations broke down earlier this month when the workers asked for a 53 percent increase in wages and benefits.

East County Citizens for Responsible Government, a Clark County PAC representing businesses and organizations in Camas and Washougal, sent out a press release in response to the UNITE HERE funded mail drop.

Elizabeth Pike, spokesperson for the east county PAC, weighs in as an observer and 25-year active participant of Clark County politics, “It’s just very disappointing to see money coming from the other side of the country.”

Pike calls into question the need for this large of expenditure. “That’s probably three times the amount that each of those candidates raised in this election.”

Bill Turlay

Bill Turlay

“This must be an extremely critical race.” Bill Turlay

Bill Turlay, who is running against McEnerny-Ogle, wonders why $32,000 would be invested for a City Council position that only pays $21,000.“This must be an extremely critical race. I understand this is a union organization, and I don’t know why the union is so interested, unless it has to do with something that is going on with the negotiations between the housekeepers union over there at the Hilton Hotel.”

Turlay poses what he feels is the basic question that has to be answered, “Why would New York send this kind of money to a City Council race unless there was some advantage?” Listen to Bill Turlay’s audio interview at the top of this article.

Elizabeth Pike says, “This is not the first time UNITE HERE has invested in Vancouver politics.” The New York PAC’s rolodex includes Tim Leavitt, whose mayoral campaign received $55,000 from UNITE HERE.

Elizabeth Pike

Elizabeth Pike

Pike’s east Clark County PAC works closer to home. She describes her PAC as local people who want to have a positive impact in local elections. They funded an independent expenditure for “a low tax, small government, conservative candidate,” Neil Cahoon, who’s running for Port of Camas-Washougal commissioner against incumbent Bill Ward.

The other expense for East County Citizens for Responsible Government was a newspaper ad in a small paper for write-in candidate Steve Bang, who is running against Linda Dietzman for Washougal City Council. Dietzman also serves on the C-Tran board.

Pike believes citizens of Vancouver should be able to choose candidates without having to contend with pressure “from some outside union based in New York City.”

She offers advice to Anne McEnery-Ogle, “Her best response to the mailer should have been to condemn it.”

UPDATE: This morning Anne McEnery-Ogle responded to a few questions COUV.COM asked her regarding the UNITE HERE mailer. She wrote that she “was completely surprised” but was “pleased that the flier is factually correct and positive,” adding that the flier “quotes the Vancouver firefighter and police unions, both of which endorsed me.”

Though McEnery-Ogle said she was not aware of the existence of the mailer prior to its appearance, but added, “I was aware of the local UNITE workers and I appreciate that they have volunteered to help me distribute my 10,000 door-to-door campaign fliers.”

When COUV.COM followed up on Bill Turlay’s comment as to why the New York-based UNITE HERE would send this kind of money to a local City Council race, McEnery-Ogle said, “I have no idea. I’ve never talked to them (UNITE HERE) and I didn’t know they existed.” McEnery-Ogle did speculate, writing, “This seems to be a third party interest group that represents thousands of everyday workers.”

Regardless of the PAC’s financial support, McEnery-Ogle made it clear that it wasn’t going to influence her on the issues, saying, “I don’t know what they expect from me. They may support me because we have common ideas, but it certainly won’t change the way I approach issues.”

COUV.COM continues to research this story and has contacted UNITE HERE for their comment.