In The Wake Of Biden’s Big No, Hillary Secures Key Union Support

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Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton snagged a big union endorsement Friday, less than a week after Vice President Joe Biden announced he would not run.

The endorsement is a big victory for Hillary who has struggled to gain traction with the labor movement. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) notes it made the endorsement after receiving months of feedback from union members. Despite strong union support, Biden announced Oct. 21 he would not be running for president.

“The next president will make decisions that could make or break the ability of working people across America to sustain their families,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said in a statement. “That’s why we spent the last six months engaged in the most member-focused, in-depth, and transparent endorsement process AFSCME has ever undertaken.”

AFSCME is the largest trade union of public employees in the country. At first it was among several national unions who all decided to hold off their endorsement. The other unions include the AFL-CIO, Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The decision to delay their endorsements is believed to have been the result of lingering issues union leaders had with Hillary.

“What we heard throughout our endorsement process is that AFSCME members want a candidate who is committed to fixing our out-of-balance economy,” Saunders continued. “And raising incomes for hardworking people who are still struggling to make ends meet.”

Hillary and unions have long been at odds over her hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). She did eventually come out against it after the international trade deal was finalized. Her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline has also upset union members and leaders who look at the project as a good source of jobs.

 “Members want a candidate who will make it easier instead of harder to join together in strong unions and stand together for wages and benefits that can sustain our families,” Saunders also noted.
While top unions leaders hedged their bets, many local unions began endorsing Democratic rival Bernie Sanders. Union leadership, however, has almost universally noted concern with Bernie’s electability. Biden, though, offered unions a safe alternative to Hillary. His announcement follows strong speculation he would actually make the plunge, along with strong support among national union leaders.

“What we also heard was AFSCME members want the candidate who will be the most effective champion for working families, and who will be able to deliver a victory in this critically important election,” Saunders concluded. “AFSCME members believe that candidate is Hillary Clinton.”

Hillary has secured some union support, despite her struggles. The American Federation of Teachers back in July endorse her, as well as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers back in August.

Nevertheless, a coalition of mostly local unions known as Labor for Bernie has held rallies across the country in support for the Vermont democratic socialist. The group and AFSCME members even tried to start a petition to get leadership to abstain from endorsement just hours before it was announced.

Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is helping to lead the group. Cohen, a long time and influential union leader, announced his support for Sanders in July. Though many local unions were already backing him, Cohen became the first major national leader to do so.

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