The four unions have more than 1,800 active members.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
AKRON -- Four Akron-based labor unions are choosing state Sen. Timothy J. Ryan as their candidate in the 17th Congressional District race over U.S. Rep. Thomas C. Sawyer, who has represented the city for the past 26 years on the local, state and national levels.
"We've had Tom Sawyer for a long time and after considering his record, our board felt that Tim Ryan would be a welcome change," said David Moran, business manager for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 306.
"Ryan is a viable candidate and would be a welcome relief because he is more responsive to working people. He is willing to go out and talk to the average Joe."
The electrical workers join the Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 219; the Painters and Allied Trades District Council 6, Local 841, and the Glaziers, Architectural Metal and Glass Workers Local 1162 in endorsing Ryan, a Niles Democrat. The four unions have more than 1,800 active members.
The electrical union has endorsed Sawyer, an Akron Democrat, in the past, but he lost their support a few years ago with his votes for the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, Moran said.
The electrical union has not endorsed a congressional candidate during the past few years because there were no serious challengers to Sawyer, Moran said.
Ryan said he got the endorsements "because Tom Sawyer has left labor out to dry. His votes on issues important to labor such as NAFTA and GATT are out of step with the needs of the working man and woman. ... It is obvious we are gaining support in Summit County."
Sawyer is facing challenges from five Mahoning Valley candidates, including two current officeholders, in Tuesday's Democratic primary. The new 17th District includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Summit and Portage counties. Sawyer's district for the past decade has included most of Portage and Summit.
Ryan has picked up the endorsements of about 30 labor union locals throughout the new district.
State Rep. Anthony A. Latell Jr., a Girard Democrat, has the endorsement of the United Steel Workers of America Local 2-L, which represents workers at Akron's Goodyear plant. Union leaders there said they could not support Sawyer because of his NAFTA and GATT votes.
Sawyer has received the endorsement of about 15 local, state and national labor unions, though none from the Mahoning Valley.
Sawyer says his votes for GATT and, in particular, NAFTA, were difficult decisions, but he points to his 90-plus rating from a number of unions as evidence that he is a strong supporter of labor and his detractors are focusing on only a handful of votes.
"It's a shame when they don't know a real friend of labor when they see one," said Mike Thomas, Sawyer's campaign manager. "Tom's labor record is very strong and very solid."