Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders announced Sunday that he has received another endorsement from a union that believes he is the most pro-worker candidate.
The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America represents 35,000 workers in manufacturing and the public sector. The union prides itself on being independent and not affiliate with union conglomerates like the AFL-CIO. Union President Peter Knowlton said a Sanders presidency would be a unique opportunity that workers and unions should not pass up.
“[He’s] the most pro-worker pro-union presidential candidate I have seen in my lifetime,” Knowlton said in a statement released by the Sanders campaign. “We are proud to endorse Bernie Sanders and support his campaign.”
Sanders has struggled to win over the labor movement despite being very aligned with it politically. He is currently campaigning in Rhode Island ahead of a primary vote Tuesday. Nevertheless he proudly accepted the endorsement while recalling working with the union to advance progressive policies.
“During my 25 years in Congress, I have been proud to stand side by side with the UE fighting to increase the minimum wage to a living wage; to guarantee health care,” Sanders said in a statement. “And against disastrous trade agreements like the North American Free Trade Agreement and normalized trade with China which have destroyed millions of decent-paying jobs in America.”
Sanders has done a lot of advance union causes. He introduced a bill in July designed to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour and has advocated for mandatory union dues. Sanders was also adamantly opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) which union leaders have denounced as a harmful giveaway to corporations.
Nevertheless Sanders has had fought for union support against his primary rival former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. He won support early on among local unions but Clinton has dominated the labor movement with national support. Some union leaders have expressed doubt on whether he is electable.
Clinton in contrasts was hesitant to oppose TPP and has been unclear about her stance on the minimum wage. She originally said the federal minimum wage should not exceed $12 an hour but supported states which choose to go higher. Clinton then said during the Democratic debate Apr. 14 that she meant the $12 mark was meant to as a step towards eventually reaching $15 an hour.
Sanders won his biggest union endorsement Dec. 17 from the Communications Workers of America (CWA). The United Electrical Workers, the Amalgamated Transit Union and the National Nurses United have also decided to support him. Former CWA President Larry Cohen is now leading the coalition Labor for Bernie which consists mostly of local unions that support Sanders.
Nevertheless Clinton has been a favorite among national union leaders. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) announced its endorsement for Clinton within days of Vice President Joe Biden declaring he would not run. Clinton won her biggest union endorsement Nov. 17 from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
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