The Look in Brief

Odessa Kelly picks up national SEIU endorsement

By: - September 2, 2021 1:56 pm
Odessa Kelly's congressional race against incumbent Jim Cooper could result in higher Black voter turnout. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Odessa Kelly, Democratic candidate for Congress in House District 5. (Photo: John Partipilo)

Odessa Kelly, candidate for the Democratic nomination for Congress in Tennessee District 5, has picked up the national endorsement of Service Workers International Union on Thursday. 

Kelly, who is taking on incumbent Congressman Jim Cooper, is member of SEIU Local 205 in Nashville through her work with the Metro Nashville Parks Department.  

“I’m a proud dues-paying, hard-working member of SEIU Local 205, and I’m honored to have the support of my union family,” said Kelly, who added that even as an employee of Metro government and with a master’s degree, she had a hard time affording to live in Nashville. “I was looking for answers, and my union family helped me understand the power of collective organizing in the fight for economic justice. I found my voice on the job, in our community, through our union.”

Kelly is currently executive director of Stand Up Nashville. The group’s first campaign was in 2018 organizing a community benefits agreement for construction of the city’s soccer stadium. Key points of the agreement included a commitment to building affordable housing as part of the development’s retail component and micro-unit retail spaces for artisans and small businesses at reduced rental rates. Other points  in the agreement include some that are already required by law, including safety training for construction workers and inclusion of minority contractors 

Stand Up Nashville is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization open about its ties to labor but the group doesn’t disclose its donors. 

“(Kelly) is so well-grounded and prepared to be our next Representative,” said Local 205 President Brad Rayson. “Most politicians have to learn about the issues working people face every day, but Odessa knows them already. She’s witnessed them in her neighborhood; she’s listened to her neighbors and the people in the community where she’s worked, and she’s experienced those issues herself.”

“When most politicians say ‘I know what you mean,’ I take it with a grain of salt, but when Odessa says it, it’s the truth,” Rayson said. 

SEIU represents workers in both the public and private sector. 

Kelly has also been endorsed by several members of Metro Council, but this is her first major organizational endorsement of the 2022 campaign cycle. The primary between Cooper and Kelly is scheduled for Aug. 4.

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Holly McCall
Holly McCall

Holly McCall has been a fixture in Tennessee media and politics for decades. She covered city hall for papers in Columbus, Ohio and Joplin, Missouri before returning to Tennessee with the Nashville Business Journal. She has served as political analyst for WZTV Fox 17 and provided communications consulting for political campaigns at all levels, from city council to presidential. Holly brings a deep wealth of knowledge about Tennessee’s political processes and players and likes nothing better than getting into the weeds of how political deals are made.