Providence public sector unions have been roundly rebuked for endorsing Buddy Cianci, both from Dan Lawlor on this blog and the Providence Journal editorial page. But how much do their endorsements matter in a mayoral election? The answer: not as much as when the city had a residency requirement.
While the local police, fire and teachers’ unions each endorsed Cianci, most of the members don’t live in Providence, a City Hall source confirmed.
Of the 3,516 Providence Public School Department employees, 37 percent live in the city (1,310). Only 22 percent of 469 fire department employees live locally and 21 percent of the 531-member police force lives in Providence. Of the 5,432 employees total city employees (including the school district) 36 percent live in the city, or 1,937.
And when it comes to the union executive boards that decide on political endorsements, the number of locals are equally stark. Of the 13 educators on the Providence Teachers Union Executive Board, only two live in the city, or 15 percent. Of the 11 executive officers of the fire fighters bargaining unit, only two live in the city, or 18 percent. And only one of the five members of the police union lives in Providence, 20 percent.
Jeremy Sencer, an elementary school and a member of the union’s executive board who lives in Cranston, cautioned me not to discount the significance of their endorsement simply because many members don’t live locally.
“While most of us don’t live there, we do spend a significant amount of time there, and we spend a lot of our time with the kids and families there,” he said. “We’re committed to the children and families of Providence, that puts us in a position to recommend, on education, what is good for Providence.”