PHILADELPHIA — Democratic National Convention participants denounced union leadership for endorsing party nominee Hillary Clinton when so many union members were behind Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Sanders is viewed by his supporters and many others as genuine in the milieu of political candidates. Many local union members gravitated towards the Sanders message of economic equality and reining in powerful special interests like the big banks. In spite of differences, many national unions endorsed Clinton.
“I think it showed they were out of touch with their membership,” Labor for Bernie Volunteer Rand Wilson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “I think the last year and a half with union leadership showed they were a little bit out of touch with the rank-and-file. Totally missed the level of frustration and anger on the part of union members across this country.”
Wilson, despite his misgivings, believes that Clinton is still a much better choice than Republican nominee Donald Trump. He warned union leadership not to ignore the concerns of workers who support Trump and risk further alienating union members. National Nurses United (NNU) was one of the few major unions to endorse Sanders and is continuing to do so.
“Their leadership comes out in support of Hillary but their rank-and-file say Bernie,” NNU Vice President Sandra Falwell told TheDCNF. “I’ll be honest with you, I think they betrayed their membership. If your membership is telling you we need this, this and this and the person you are supporting does not go for that you have betrayed the people you are supposed to be working for.”
Falwell has been a union member for roughly two decades and a registered nurse for 43 years. Falwell believes other unions are growing apart from their members, due to a structure that promotes disconnect.
“I think far too many including labor leaders are with the status quo,” Falwell also noted. “The one difference in our union and the rest is we’re all volunteers. Everything I do here is on my off time, my own vacation time and my own money.”
Some see a silver lining in the Hillary win. “I was originally going for Bernie but I think Hillary will take his vision and act on it and come through for us,” Communications Workers of America Member Moises Lopez told TheDCNF. “I switched when she secured the nomination.”
For some, it is less about who took the nomination and more about the process.
“We have a democratic process of voting that is membership based,” National Education Association Member Elizabeth Paul told TheDCNF. “Members elect delegates to represent them at the local level, the state level and the national. So it was a voting process. And just like any election there are people who aren’t necessarily happy with the results.”
Democratic delegates supporting Sanders staged a walkout Tuesday at the convention in response to allegations the primaries were rigged.
Union leadership notes the concern their membership could end up supporting Trump over Clinton. The AFL-CIO has already been utilizing its substantial political influence and resources to oppose the Republican nominee. It has been mobilizing members and supporters on the grassroots level throughout the election.
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