Labor for Bernie Kickstarts Effort to Get Unions Behind Sanders With Nearly 2,000 Union Backers

Mario Vasquez June 26, 2015

Bernie Sanders speaks at a #StopFastTrack rally in DC this April.

Labor for Bernie, a new nation­wide net­work for union mem­bers, announced today the launch of their grass­roots move­ment to push the AFL-CIO and oth­er unaf­fil­i­at­ed major labor orga­ni­za­tions such as SEIU and the Team­sters toward endors­ing Sen­a­tor Bernie Sander­s’s 2016 pres­i­den­tial campaign.

Almost 2,000 union mem­bers have signed onto a let­ter out­lin­ing the network’s goals. Labor for Bernie reports that more than a third of these Sanders sup­port­ers belong to build­ing trades unions, with 137 Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers signees alone. Oth­er unions that showed sig­nif­i­cant rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the let­ter include the Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Work­ers of Amer­i­ca, Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of Teach­ers, the Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion, Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union, Inter­na­tion­al Union of Oper­at­ing Engi­neers, Unit­ed Auto Work­ers and the Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Teamsters.

Labor for Bernie 2016 won’t be a cor­po­rate-style, staff-dri­ven, top-down cam­paign. It will reflect our com­mit­ment to cre­at­ing fun­da­men­tal change and the urgency of stronger grass­roots orga­niz­ing and polit­i­cal activ­i­ty,” the let­ter reads. We call on labor lead­ers, union mem­bers and work­ing peo­ple to unite behind Bernie Sanders for a voice in the pres­i­den­tial polit­i­cal process and to elect the Pres­i­dent work­ing fam­i­lies need — a Pres­i­dent who will answer to the 99 percent!”

The network’s web­site includes sam­ple res­o­lu­tions for rank and file activists hop­ing to push their locals and state-lev­el fed­er­a­tions of labor into endors­ing Sanders. Thus far, AFL-CIO state-lev­el fed­er­a­tions from Ver­mont and South Car­oli­na have cho­sen to do so.

Bernie is run­ning on a record of real accom­plish­ment for work­ers, farm­ers, vet­er­ans, and mil­lions of oth­er blue-col­lar Amer­i­cans,” said Erin McK­ee, Pres­i­dent of the South Car­oli­na AFL-CIO, on the network’s web­site.

But here’s the real dif­fer­ence between him and all the rest: He’s the can­di­date who tru­ly believes in the pow­er of grass­roots orga­niz­ing. Bernie has been to South Car­oli­na over the past few years and some of our mem­bers got the chance to see that first hand when he met not only with labor unions but with the fast food work­ers fight­ing for $15 an hour and a union.”

In late March, AFL-CIO Pres­i­dent Richard Trum­ka deliv­ered a speech men­tion­ing that an endorse­ment from the nation­al orga­ni­za­tion is still up for grabs.

It is ear­ly, and although many can­di­dates are already in the race, the field remains open,” he said then. And the labor movement’s doors are open to any can­di­date who is seri­ous about trans­form­ing our econ­o­my with high and ris­ing wages.”

Front-run­ner Hillary Clinton’s recent silence on the labor-opposed Trans-Pacif­ic Part­ner­ship trade agree­ment led Trum­ka to say a few weeks lat­er, in late May, that it was con­ceiv­able” that the nation­wide AFL-CIO would not endorse a can­di­date for pres­i­dent, instead focus­ing on the leg­isla­tive races in 2016 if a can­di­date didn’t com­mit to a plat­form that they would want to fight for.

Since 1989, 19 of Sanders’ top 20 donors are mem­bers of unions from across the coun­ty, where­as Clinton’s top 20 is heav­i­ly pop­u­lat­ed by titans of finance. Labor for Bernie will be a new insti­tu­tion­al cam­paign pres­ence amid this fis­cal backdrop.

Clinton’s name recog­ni­tion (unprece­dent­ed among pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates since at least Richard Nixon in 1968, accord­ing to the New York Times) and big mon­ey sup­port will make Sanders’ run an uphill climb. But, as of late, Sanders is edg­ing clos­er and close to Clin­ton in the polls. He’s pack­ing the house in venues across the coun­try (5,500 attend­ed Sanders’ speech in Den­ver on June 20) and is even get­ting love from come­di­ans like Sarah Sil­ver­man and Lewis Black.

If Labor for Bernie were to grow from its ini­tial group of 1,000 union sup­port­ers, the group could prove cru­cial in help­ing the Sen­a­tor from Ver­mont expand his nation­wide reach. Labor for Bernie cer­tain­ly could pro­vide an out­let for labor activists that are tired of uncon­test­ed Demo­c­ra­t­ic endorse­ments and eager to devote orga­nized labor’s resources towards Sanders.

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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