Labor for Bernie Pushing Unions To Back Bernie Sanders, Prevent Early Hillary Clinton Endorsements

Mario Vasquez September 10, 2015

Sen. Sanders walks the picket line with Penford Products workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa last week. (Bernie Sanders / Instagram)

Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders host­ed a nation­al phone call Wednes­day night focused on the labor move­ment in which orga­niz­ers say 26,000 peo­ple par­tic­i­pat­ed. The cam­paign hopes to drum up sup­port from union mem­bers as Sanders inch­es his way to front-run­ner sta­tus in the ear­ly Pres­i­den­tial pri­ma­ry and cau­cus elec­tions of New Hamp­shire and Iowa.

Orga­nized by Labor for Bernie, the net­work for union mem­bers aim­ing to secure endorse­ments for Sanders, the call fea­tured remarks by Sanders out­lin­ing his eco­nom­ic platform.

How does it hap­pen that we con­tin­ue to be in a sit­u­a­tion where mil­lions of Amer­i­can work­er want to join unions, want to be involved in col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing, they want to stand up for their rights, but they can’t join the union because their employ­ers use unfair, ille­gal tac­tics to deny them their con­sti­tu­tion­al rights to form a union?” Sanders asked before announc­ing that he will be intro­duc­ing the Work­place Democ­ra­cy Act into leg­is­la­tion this fall in order to sig­nif­i­cant­ly ease up union dri­ve efforts and sub­se­quent first con­tract implementation.

This exists in oth­er coun­tries, and we all know that one of the rea­sons that the Amer­i­can mid­dle class is dis­ap­pear­ing is because we have seen a sig­nif­i­cant reduc­tion in the num­ber of peo­ple who are in trade unions in this country.”

Some activist rank-and-file union mem­bers through­out the coun­try have labeled Sanders as the only viable can­di­date for work­ers and, with Labor for Bernie, are attempt­ing to upset an endorse­ment process that has thus far — in the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers and the Inter­na­tion­al Asso­ci­a­tion of Machin­ists and Aero­space Work­ers—favored his oppo­nent Hillary Clin­ton ear­ly on.

We need some­one who won’t give us any more false promis­es. We need a war­rior in the White House. Bernie Sanders is that war­rior,” says Roseanne DeMoro, pres­i­dent of the pro­gres­sive Nation­al Nurs­es Union, who spoke about her union’s endorse­ment for Sanders, mak­ing them the first major union to endorse the can­di­date thus far. The Nation­al Nurs­es Union so proud­ly endorsed Bernie the first minute that we could. We know and we trust who Bernie is.”

Oth­er union mem­bers who spoke on the call advo­cat­ing for Sanders includ­ed Amal­ga­mat­ed Tran­sit Union inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent Lar­ry Han­ley and sup­port­ers from the Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers Local 153 and 1199 Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union.

SEIU mem­bers involved with Bernie Sanders fear that their union will be labor’s next major play­er to endorse Clin­ton with­out much input from the rank and file, with a deci­sion expect­ed for late Sep­tem­ber. SEIU for Bernie, a Labor for Bernie affil­i­at­ed group, has col­lect­ed hun­dreds of sig­na­tures in a peti­tion to push SEIU lead­ers to stave off any endorse­ment, but the union has recent­ly told Politi­co that inter­nal polls shore up Clin­ton as the mem­bers’ preference.

At IBEW, a dif­fer­ent kind of endorse­ment process is being under­tak­en, and as Carl Shaf­fer of IBEW Local 153 puts it, Sanders sup­port­ers with­in the union are mak­ing their voice heard, telling call par­tic­i­pants of their mass email to IBEW’s polit­i­cal depart­ment, a con­cert­ed effort hop­ing to delay­ing any deci­sion until after pri­ma­ry sea­son has actu­al­ly unfolded.

So many IBEW mem­bers took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to express their views to the inter­na­tion­al pres­i­dent that he respond­ed a lit­tle over a week lat­er to all of them on August 28, say­ing that IBEW had no inten­tion of mak­ing an ear­ly endorse­ment. He fin­ished his state­ment by encour­ag­ing all IBEW mem­bers to become involved in the grass­roots polit­i­cal efforts and to study the can­di­dates’ posi­tions on the issues,” Shaf­fer says.

Anoth­er par­tic­i­pant in the call was Adolph Reed, a Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia polit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor and long­time writer and activist, with an orga­niz­ing report from the South where he says he has been draw­ing inter­est for Sanders’ cam­paign from stu­dents and fac­ul­ty at the Uni­ver­si­ty of New Orleans, Tulane Uni­ver­si­ty, and his­tor­i­cal­ly black col­leges and uni­ver­si­ties through­out the region. Reed also stat­ed that he is con­sid­er­ing form­ing a group called Nation­al Aca­d­e­mics for Sanders.

Sanders’ call to union mem­bers Wednes­day night enabled Labor for Bernie to bring in thou­sands of vol­un­teers, accord­ing one of the group’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives Lar­ry Cohen, the for­mer pres­i­dent of Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Work­ers of America.

As Sanders made clear dur­ing his remarks, these vol­un­teers should be cru­cial to his cam­paign: No pres­i­dent can bring about the changes we need in the pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics of this coun­try — no pres­i­dent can do it alone. We need a polit­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion, we need mil­lions of peo­ple to be involved in the process and the trade union move­ment has got to be in the mid­dle of that.”

Mario Vasquez is a writer from south­ern Cal­i­for­nia. He is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor to Work­ing In These Times. Fol­low him on Twit­ter @mario_vsqz or email him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)/*= 0)out += unescape(l[i].replace(/^\s\s*/, &#’));while ( – j >= 0)if (el[j].getAttribute(‘data-eeEncEmail_JkRTuBCpnw’))el[j].innerHTML = out;/*]]>*/.
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