National Union Threatens Local Union Just For Supporting Sanders

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A local union leader was allegedly threatened out of talking at an event for Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders by a national affiliate, according to reports Tuesday.

Washington state Labor Council President Jeff Johnson planned to talk Feb. 21 at a Labor for Bernie rally. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), however, allegedly threatened to pull funds from his union if he talked at the event, sources told The Huffington Post. AFSCME has already endorsed his rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Both unions are affiliates of the AFL-CIO, one of the few remaining national unions with no endorsement. The labor movement has been divided throughout much of the election with Sanders being much more aligned with the labor movement and Clinton appearing more electable.

“As affiliates of the national federation, state labor federations are required to maintain a neutral position in presidential contests until an official endorsement is made by the national AFL-CIO,” a senior AFSCME official told The Huffington Post. “We expect all state federations to remain in compliance with this policy and where necessary we will exercise the option of withholding funding to ensure compliance with this rule.”

The AFL-CIO is the largest labor organization in the country and so its endorsement could be very beneficial. Nevertheless, it decided for a second time last week to delay endorsing anyone for president. AFL-CIO was not the only national union to delay an endorsement, but it remains one of the few to continue doing so.

Labor unions in general tend to hold a lot of political influence and so their endorsements are usually sought during elections. Some unions appeared to be waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race. He announced Oct. 21he would not be seeking the presidency, resulting in a flood of national unions moving to back Clinton.

AFSCME announced its endorsement for Clinton within three days of Biden declaring he would not run. Trumka reportedly sent a memo to the leaders of associated unions in July telling them not to endorse Sanders. Trumka has been critical of Clinton for her policy stances on trade and the Keystone pipeline.

Clinton has 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 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 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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