The largest federation of unions in the country has decided for a second time to delay endorsing anyone for president, according to reports Wednesday.
The AFL-CIO is the largest labor organization in the country with dozens of member unions representing 12 million workers. Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have fought for union support, but the AFL-CIO still remains a top prize. It has decided, however, to delay its endorsement according to an email to members.
“I have concluded that there is broad consensus for the AFL-CIO to remain neutral in the presidential primaries for the time being,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an the email which was obtained by The Huffington Post. “And refrain from endorsing any candidate at this moment.”
Trumka wrote the email following a discussion at the AFL-CIO’s Executive Committee meeting. The executive council is responsible for endorsing a candidate, while the union political committee submits recommendations. Other unions typically decide through an internal election process.
The AFL-CIO is one of the few remaining major unions which have yet to endorse a candidate. An online petition urged leadership within the union to endorse Sanders but Trumka reportedly sent a memo to the leaders of associated unions in July telling them not to endorse him. Trumka has also been critical of Clinton for her policy stances on trade and the Keystone pipeline.
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. Sanders managed to gain some momentum among local unions early on but Clinton eventually won over national unions despite a slow start.
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, but he announced Oct. 21 he would not be seeking the presidency.
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement for Clinton within three days of Biden declaring he would not run. She has also been able to secure support from the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), the American Federation of Teachers and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) among others.
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.
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