WASHINGTON — The race to become the next president of the nation's fastest growing labor union became clearer on Wednesday after one of the candidates dropped out of the contest.
Anna Burger withdrew her bid to succeed Andy Stern as head of the politically powerful Service Employees International Union. Burger is second in command at the union that has close ties to President Barack Obama.
Burger was the favored choice of Stern, who is leaving after 14 years of dynamic yet sometimes divisive leadership.
Her move makes it almost certain that Mary Kay Henry – head of the union's health care division – will become its new president next month.
Four of the union's most influential vice presidents had backed Henry last week, saying they wanted the union to take a new direction. Their endorsement of Henry over Burger was widely viewed as a surprising rejection of Stern. His top-down management style has created friction and led leaders of a major SEIU local in Northern California to form a rival union.
But Burger, in a statement, rejected any suggestions that the contest represented a shift in SEIU's priorities or "rejection of the Stern/Burger agenda."
"We women have a special knack for putting our egos aside and keeping our eye on the bigger picture and the common good," Burger said. She called Henry an ally who shares "the same goals for our union and for the larger labor movement."
Stern earlier this month announced his intent to step down from the 2.2-million member union that he helped build into one of the nation's largest and most politically active. He is a member of Obama's deficit commission, which held its first meeting this week.