Politics

Major Union Warms Up To Hillary

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Despite struggling to gain union support in her bid for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton managed Saturday to finally earn an endorsement from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

“Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members, and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement. “That fight defines her campaign and her career.”

The endorsement comes despite many within the labor movement holding strong reservations against Hillary. Some unions have even decided to endorse self-proclaimed socialist Bernie Sanders despite Hillary being the frontrunner. Outgoing Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen has even said he plans to volunteer for Sanders’ campaign.

The endorsement is indeed a victory for  a Clinton campaign that was conspicuously without major union support.

“She’s ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity,” Weingarten continued. “Hillary is the leader we need to help us reclaim the promise of public education and, indeed, of America.”

Unions wield considerable political influence and are some of the most generous contributors during campaigns, especially to Democrats. If enough unions decide not to officially endorse Hillary, it could be a big hit to her campaign.

The tilt away from Hillary boils down to President Barack Obama’s recent trade efforts. Unions, hoping to make the Trans-Pacific Partnership an important campaign issue, have put pressure on Hillary to take a firm stance against the trade agenda. After a long delay, all unions got from her was a request for the president to work better with Democratic lawmakers.

“I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American,” Hillary said in a statement. “I know from my own family that teachers have the power to change lives. We need to make sure every child has access to a quality public education and teachers with the tools to help them succeed.”

Though he also hasn’t endorsed Hillary for president, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has warned against endorsing Sanders. In early June he sent a memo to the leaders of associated unions telling them not to endorse him.

Despite not yet demonstrating a strong position on trade, Hillary has still tried in other ways to court unions. She prominently showed off union-made gear in May during the official launch of her online campaign shop, and she urged people to stand firmly for unions during a speech in Chicago.

Leadership within the AFL-CIO plans to meet with Hillary privately during a union executive council gathering in Maryland between July 29-30. The meeting will likely provide the union a chance to press her on trade and other lingering issues. During that time, the union is also expected to meet separately with her Democratic rivals Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley.

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