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Bradley’s Labor Leader Lobby May Delay Gore’s Endorsement

By Thomas B. Edsall

Bill Bradley’s furious effort to lobby leaders of organized labor has cast doubt on what had been the near-certain AFL-CIO endorsement of Vice President Al Gore’s presidential bid next week.

Bradley, boosted by the success of his campaign, has persuaded leaders of some of the biggest unions in the AFL-CIO to press for a delay of the endorsement.

These dissenting unions do not have enough votes to block an endorsement, according to numerous sources in labor, but they are influential enough to give AFL-CIO President John Sweeney serious pause as he decides whether to press the matter on Oct. 14.

The odds remain in Gore’s favor and a solid majority of the 68-member unions in the labor federation are prepared to back his bid for the Democratic nomination, some very strongly, according to these sources.

“We are going through the process,” said Sweeney, who wants to endorse Gore but wants it to be as much of a consensus decision as possible. “I hear very, very few who are pushing for Bradley,” he said, adding, however, “there are some people who think we should take a little longer.”

Until Oct. 14, when Sweeney has to decide whether to bring up the endorsement, union leaders will meet every morning to hash through the dispute.

The dilemma for Sweeney and other Gore backers is that they know that postponing the decision to endorse would be viewed as a major blow to Gore. At the same time, pushing an endorsement through over objections of key unions would be, in the words of one union leader, “a paper endorsement,” lacking enthusiasm.

While acknowledging the union endorsement at this time would be a major boost to a campaign that has suffered a number of setbacks lately, Gore officials note that even if the AFL-CIO does not come through next week, Gore has received the backing of many national unions and their local affiliates. The state branches of the United Auto Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, have, for example, endorsed Gore.

Both Gore and Bradley have been aggressively lobbying labor. Last week, top officials of both campaigns met separately with union leaders here at the Hay-Adams Hotel. The purpose of the sessions was to present each campaign’s strategy to win the nomination as well as the general election.