Despite SEIU Intl. Hillary Clinton Endorsement, SEIU Local 1984 in NH Votes to Back Bernie Sanders

Mario Vasquez

Sanders stands with workers in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (berniesanders.com)

Despite its par­ent inter­na­tion­al union’s Hillary Clin­ton endorse­ment this week, New Hampshire’s sec­ond-largest union, Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union (SEIU) Local 1984, endorsed Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders’ cam­paign for the Demo­c­ra­t­ic pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion on Thursday.

Bernie Sanders has a long his­to­ry of fight­ing for work­ing peo­ple,” Richard Gul­la, Pres­i­dent of SEIU Local 1984, said in a state­ment. He shares many of our mem­bers’ goals and val­ues,” he said, list­ing Sanders’ com­bat­ive stance on Wall Street greed and cor­rup­tion” and the Ver­mont Senator’s sup­port of high­er wages and acces­si­ble high­er education.

Local 1984, also known as the State Employ­ees Asso­ci­a­tion (SEA), rep­re­sents 11,000 work­ers, and is the first SEIU local to break with the inter­na­tion­al union since its Tues­day endorse­ment of for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton, a deci­sion which puz­zled some due to Clinton’s reluc­tance on a demand for a $15 min­i­mum wage that has been a goal for SEIU’s allies in the Fight for $15 movement.

While we dif­fer in our endorse­ment, we share the same val­ues, hopes and dreams for our coun­try,” says Gul­la, with the state­ment not­ing SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and SEIU Inter­na­tion­al will work togeth­er respect­ful­ly dur­ing the primary.”

SEIU 1984 joins the approx­i­mate­ly 30 dif­fer­ent locals from around the coun­try that have decid­ed to endorse Sanders thus far. While a SEIU local rep­re­sent­ing 500 work­ers at New Hampshire’s Dart­mouth Col­lege had endorsed Sanders in late Octo­ber, Local 1984’s size and the prece­dence of its break with the inter­na­tion­al post-Clin­ton endorse­ment makes 1984 a unique play­er for the Sanders cam­paign in New Hamp­shire, where polls in the first-pri­ma­ry state reflect that the dif­fer­ence between the two Demo­c­ra­t­ic fron­trun­ners is with­in the mar­gin of error.

No mat­ter what hap­pens inside the Belt­way, today’s news shows with­out a doubt that the pas­sions of work­ing fam­i­lies are clear­ly with Bernie,” says Sanders’ New Hamp­shire state cam­paign direc­tor Julia Barnes.

The SEIU’s largest local, 1199, had decid­ed to delay its endorse­ment last week, but ulti­mate­ly decid­ed to back Clin­ton the day after the inter­na­tion­al union’s exec­u­tive board went with Clin­ton. George Gre­sham, Pres­i­dent of 1199SEIU, Unit­ed Health­care Work­ers East, said in a state­ment then:

Sec­re­tary Clin­ton has the com­mit­ment, skills and expe­ri­ence to move our coun­try for­ward, and the most effec­tive strat­e­gy to win the pres­i­den­cy. There­fore, we sup­port SEIU’s deci­sion to endorse Sec­re­tary Hillary Clin­ton, and will mobi­lize our more than 400,000 mem­bers to ensure the pri­or­i­ty issues of health­care work­ers, our fam­i­lies and our com­mu­ni­ties are heard loud and clear. Togeth­er, we will fight for a coun­try that works for work­ing peo­ple, with secu­ri­ty, oppor­tu­ni­ty and dig­ni­ty for all.”

Local 1984 made its deci­sion based on the results of open poll of all mem­ber­ship, as well as rec­om­men­da­tions made by the local’s polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion com­mit­tee after can­di­date inter­views were con­duct­ed and fur­ther com­mit­tee dis­cus­sion. The local alleges that both the open poll and the committee’s rec­om­men­da­tions pro­duced majori­ties in favor of a Sanders endorsement.

We are a tru­ly demo­c­ra­t­ic orga­ni­za­tion,” Gul­la says. Any one of our mem­bers is able to join and con­tribute to the [polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion] [c]ommittee; just as any mem­ber in good stand­ing is able to run for the Board of Direc­tors. We are proud that we are a com­plete­ly mem­ber led/​member direct­ed organization.”

John Hat­tan, Local 1984’s polit­i­cal edu­ca­tion com­mit­tee chair, added, We looked at the issues that mat­tered most to work­ing peo­ple, and most mem­bers sup­port­ed today’s endorse­ment as the best decision.”

Rank-and-file activists, par­tic­u­lar­ly with­in the grass­roots union mem­ber net­work Labor for Bernie, have been mak­ing the case that Sanders’ pres­i­den­tial cam­paign could be the one that is most ben­e­fi­cial to the prospects of orga­nized labor and work­ing peo­ple across the nation. In a Novem­ber 20 state­ment, Labor for Bernie calls SEIU’s nation­al endorse­ment short-sight­ed and unprin­ci­pled” and based on a failed strat­e­gy of engag­ing in pure­ly trans­ac­tion­al’ pol­i­tics with cor­po­rate lib­er­als.” With Clinton’s labor endorse­ments com­ing from major nation­al unions that rep­re­sent close to 10 mil­lion work­ers, Sanders’ most ardent labor sup­port­ers have recent­ly focused on gar­ner­ing endorse­ments at the local lev­el. The ques­tion of whether this strat­e­gy will have an impact on pri­ma­ry turnout is left to be answered.

This cam­paign has always been about putting the needs of work­ing peo­ple and work­ing fam­i­lies first,” Sanders said in a state­ment. That is why I am tru­ly hon­ored to have the sup­port of SEIU 1984 and many local unions across the coun­try, as we work to build an econ­o­my that works for all of us — not just the wealthy one percent.”

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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