Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton may gain her biggest union endorsement to date Tuesday with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) expected to announce its support.
The endorsement would be a huge victory for Hillary. At 1.9 million members, the SEIU is one of the most powerful labor unions in the country. As a result, Hillary and her primary rival Bernie Sanders have competed for their support.
“Everyone is saying the endorsement happens on the 17th,” a source inside the union hold Politico. While SEIU Spokeswoman Sahar Wali later confirmed that the executive board will meet Tuesday, she also noted that no endorsement decision had been made.
It was Bernie who looked like he would win over the labor movement early on in the election. Almost right away he was able to gain support among many local unions. National union leaders were much more hesitant, fearing he was not electable. At the same time, Hillary struggled to gain traction with the labor movement because of lingering political issues. Because of Hillary’s support for unpopular policies, Bernie’s unpredictable surge in popularity, and Vice President Joe Biden’s potential as a wild-card candidate, several national unions decided to delay endorsing anyone.
In the past month, Hillary has begun picking up momentum. Early on, it was her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and her hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which first put her at odds with unions. Hillary did eventually come out against TPP after the international trade deal was finalized.
In contrast, Bernie was much more adamantly opposed to the deal and has also made issues important to the labor movement central to his campaign. In July, Sanders introduced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Hillary, in contrast, has supported only raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour.
Hillary saw her most recent wave of endorsements after Biden announced Oct. 21 he would not be running for president. Biden had the potential to offer unions a safe alternative between the two main candidates.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the International Longshoremen’s Association both decided to back Hillary towards the end of October. She was also able to secured support with The American Federation of Teachers back in July and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers back in August.
Despite his own union’s hesitance toward Hillary, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a memo to the leaders of associated unions in July telling them not to endorse Sanders.
Nevertheless, Bernie has gained a lot of support. Labor for Bernie has held rallies across the country in support for the Vermont-democratic socialist. Though the coalition consists mostly of local unions, the American Postal Workers Union, the United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United also joined in. Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is helping to lead the group.
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