A coalition of local union chapters came out Friday against national leaders at the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for supporting Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her rival Bernie Sanders.
Labor for Bernie includes many local union chapters, notably some from within the SEIU. The coalition has used rallies and grassroots mobilizing campaigns to advocate for the Vermont-democratic socialist. Despite Bernie getting a lot of support from local chapters, national leaders at the SEIU announced an official endorsement of Hillary Nov. 17.
“SEIU’s decision to endorse Clinton is short-sighted and unprincipled,” a coalition email obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation declared. “It is based on a failed strategy of engaging in purely ‘transactional’ politics with corporate liberals. That’s why members who support Bernie Sanders are so understandably frustrated.”
Though the coalition consists mostly of local unions, the American Postal Workers Union, the United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United also have representation. Former Communications Workers of America President Larry Cohen is helping to lead the effort.
“Many feel that SEIU’s endorsement process was insufficiently responsive to rank-and-file sentiment,” the email continued. “Some are threatening to stop their voluntary contributions to SEIU political action funds.”
Early on, it looked like Bernie was destined to win over the labor movement. He quickly gained support among many local unions, while Hillary struggled to gain momentum. The problem for unions was her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and her hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).
Sanders was much more adamantly opposed to the trade deal. He has also made issues important to the labor movement a central part of his campaign. In July, Sanders introduced a bill that would raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. The problem was, some national union leaders feared he was not electable.
That all changed, though, in the past month. The growing wave of support for Hillary began after Biden announced Oct. 21 he would not be running for president. Not long after the announcement, a few of the biggest unions in the country decided to back Hillary. Rand Wilson, a union staffer and participant in the coalition, is urging national leaders to give locals the space to continue advocating for Bernie.
“While the national union may campaign for Clinton, we call on union leaders to respect those of us who have made up our minds to continue to support Bernie Sanders,” Wilson was quotes in the email as saying. “We have a legitimate difference of opinion about which candidate will best advance our issues, but everyone should respect and tolerate those differences and stay united behind our shared objectives.”
Labor for Bernie includes local chapters of the SEIU from across the country. It also includes chapters of the American Federation of Teachers, Communications Workers of America, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, United Brotherhood Of Carpenters, AFL-CIO and the Vermont State Labor Council.
Despite the national endorsement, it appears the SEIU is somewhat fractured on the local level. Some chapters have argued leadership should not endorse anyone at the moment, while others have maintained silence, and still others have thrown their hats in with Bernie.
Nevertheless, Hillary was able to secure 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.
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