Elections

Autoworkers At Crossroads Between Sanders And Clinton

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The United Auto Workers (UAW) is in the process of surveying members to figure out which presidential candidate to endorse, but leadership noted Friday indecision between the two Democratic front-runners is making the decision tough.

Labor unions possess a substantial amount of political influence and their endorsements can be a huge boost to campaigns. They aren’t just big political donors, they also have the ability to mobilize crowds and volunteers. While they most often endorse Democrats, the decision between Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has not been an easy one.

“We are right now surveying our members,” UAW President Dennis Williams told the Detroit Free Press. “I think right now, people are conflicted. I think right now people are watching with interest what the candidates are saying.”

Sanders managed to gain some momentum among local unions over Clinton early on in his campaign. National unions, however, were much more conflicted with some even deciding to delay their endorsement. Sanders was much more aligned with the labor movement but Clinton appeared more electable. Some unions even appeared to be waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race.

“Both of them, by the way, on the Democratic side, would be great candidates to be president of the U.S.,” Williams also noted. Sanders has consistently advocated for policies unions support while Clinton has often done the opposite. Clinton lost favor with many unionized workers earlier for her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and her hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Biden eventually announced Oct. 21he would not be seeking the presidency. Not long after, a horde of national unions began flocking to support Clinton. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement of her within three days of Biden declaring he would not run.

Clinton won her biggest union endorsement Nov. 17 from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). She has also been able to secure support from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the American Federation of Teachers and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. A recent campaign video showcased her appreciation for the support.

Sanders has still done well among the labor movement but his early momentum slowed when it came to large unions. He snagged his biggest union endorsement Dec. 17 from the Communications Workers of America (CWA). Larry Cohen, former union president, had already pledged in July his support for Sanders.

Cohen is now leading the coalition Labor for Bernie which consists mostly of local unions that support Sanders. The United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United have also decided to support him. UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada has shown her personal support for Sanders.

The AFL-CIO is another one of the few remaining major unions still trying to decide who to endorse. An online petition urged leadership within the union to endorse Sanders. The AFL-CIO executive council is responsible for endorsing a candidate, while the union political committee submits recommendations. Other unions typically decide through an internal election process.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka sent a memo to the leaders of associated unions in July telling them not to endorse Sanders. Trumka has also been critical of Clinton for her policy stances.

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