A fight between two powerful labor union leaders from New Jersey continued to escalate on Tuesday, with State Building & Construction Trades Council President Bill Mullen calling Greg Lalevee, the head of Operating Engineers Local 825, a coward for not picking up the phone and calling him about a vote-by-mail operation he’s running.
“If you think you can do my job better, run against me,” Mullen told Lalevee in a letter.
Lalevee is infuriated over efforts by Prosperity First, a non-profit Mullen runs, to send computer-generated vote-by-mail ballot applications to targeted voters in seven South Jersey counties, specifically in Burlington County, where Latham Tiver, a Local 825 business agent, is the Republican candidate for State Senate.
Hundreds of voters – all Democrats – have signed up to automatically receive vote-by-mail ballots in the 8th district, where Tiver faces Democrat Heather Cooper, a move that potentially enhances the likelihood of higher voter turnout in a traditionally low turnout year.
Mullen denies that he’s out to hurt Tiver.
“You wasted time racking your brain trying to figure out why I would actively work against the Operating Engineers candidate for public office when you could have called me on the phone, and I would have informed you, that could not be further from the truth,” Mullen said. “Your efforts to taint and misconstrue a voter turnout effort into something against an operating engineer candidate has failed.”
Specifically, Mullen pushed back on a New Jersey Globe report that the Prosperity First group was targeting only registered Democrats, even though 100% of the voters who signed up to permanently vote using mail-in ballots listing Mullen as the assistor on their application were registered Democrats.
“You can’t always believe everything you read in the newspaper as fact verbatim,” he said. “It is always possible that the ballot applications sent back may have been Democrats, but they were sent to Republicans and Independents as well.”
As chair of Prosperity First — former Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin, the CEO of Cooper University Health Systems’ non-profit foundation, and David Krone, a former chief of staff to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are the other directors – Mullen says he is “a strong advocate, committed to increasing voter turnout by educating voters of all political parties across New Jersey to enroll in permanent vote by mail.”
Still, the group has only focused on South Jersey. And voting records show that Mullen himself is an in-person voter who only voted by mail in the all-VBM 2020 primary and general elections.
In protest to what he views as an assault on Tiver’s candidacy for an open State Senate seat in a competitive district that has elected Republicans for the last fifty years, Lalevee has withdrawn from the state building trades council.
“I am here to tell you that we (our full Board) have clearly fought to come out from under other labor organizations that have an agenda that conflicts with ours and keeps us down,” Mullen said. “We have fought to stand on our own feet, and with the help of our Building Trades elected legislators, we have become the premier labor organization in New Jersey.”
Mullen insists that his organization places “the highest priority on legislators running for office that are building trades union members, not on the party affiliation.”
“We publish our endorsement list for all to see, we mail it out to all locals and county councils, and we work to ensure our candidates have our support,” he said. “Many Building Trades Members have been and still are registered Democrats, however, they are allowed to and do vote Republican.”