Unionized news outlet Gawker Media denounced national unions Monday for backing Democratic presidential candidate former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Clinton and Sanders have fought throughout the election for union endorsements. Sanders gained support among local unions early on, but Clinton pulled ahead with national support. Sanders was much more aligned with the labor movement, but Clinton appeared more electable, according to former American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten.
Gawker writer Hamilton Nolan argued in his Monday article the decision to back Clinton was a mistake by national leaders.
“The labor movement is fucking up,” Nolan wrote. “Sanders’ policies are objectively closer to the ones that the labor movement calls for, many major unions made the political calculation that Hillary is the likely nominee and the best chance for a Democratic White House, and that it would be wise to get on board with her early on.”
National unions appeared conflicted between Clinton and Sanders at first, some unions even appeared to be waiting to see if Vice President Joe Biden would enter the race. Biden eventually announced Oct. 21 that he would not be seeking the presidency, resulting in a surge of support for Clinton. Nevertheless, Sanders has stood his own against Clinton.
“In the past few months, the landscape has changed,” Nolan continued. “Bernie Sanders, who has steadily polled well against Donald Trump in a head-to-head matchup, is still in the race, and engenders a level of grassroots enthusiasm that Hillary does not.”
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement of Clinton within three days of Biden declaring he would not run. Clinton lost favor with many unionized workers for her opposition to the Keystone Pipeline and her hesitance to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but leaders still saw her as the best option.
“Hillary Clinton stands today as the statistically likely nominee,” Nolan also noted. “Since Sanders’ upset win in the Michigan primary, she has been raising her voice about her promised opposition to the TPP and other free trade agreements that she supported not too long ago. So it is as good at time as ever for labor leaders to ruefully review Hillary’s actual record on these things.”
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 AFT and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers.
“By backing the perceived safe choice over the candidate who actually agrees with it more, the labor movement helped to ensure that the candidate who agrees with it more will not get the nomination,” Nolan concluded. “Well done, union leaders. You have successfully sold your own interests out in advance.”
Sanders has still done well among the labor movement. While his early momentum slowed when it came to large unions, he has still snagged notable endorsements. He won his biggest union endorsement Dec. 17 from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), while the United Electrical Workers and the National Nurses United have also decided to support him.
Former CWA President Larry Cohen pledged his support in July and is now leading the coalition Labor for Bernie. The coalition consists mostly of local unions that support 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.
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