Labor For Bernie Sanders Activists Say They Are Undeterred By Union Endorsements of Hillary Clinton

Mario Vasquez November 5, 2015

(Brookings Institute / Flickr)

The grass­roots net­work for union mem­bers aim­ing to secure labor endorse­ments for Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders, Labor for Bernie, held a con­fer­ence call to an audi­ence of 1,600 peo­ple on Wednes­day night.

This is the first Labor for Bernie con­fer­ence call since ear­ly Sep­tem­ber, when pre­pared remarks made by Sen. Sanders gar­nered 26,000 lis­ten­ers as their can­di­date out­lined his pro-work­er plat­form. Since that call, the Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion (NEA) and the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, Coun­ty, and Munic­i­pal Employ­ees (AFSCME), the largest and third-largest unions in the coun­try, respec­tive­ly, have endorsed for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clin­ton. Call host Rand Wil­son, a Labor for Bernie vol­un­teer who is also the com­mu­ni­ca­tions direc­tor for Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union (SEIU) Local 888, men­tioned this in the call.

Some peo­ple on tonight’s call know that your union may have already made the endorse­ment for the oth­er can­di­date,” says Wil­son. But regard­less of any endorse­ment, the most impor­tant work right now is to keep build­ing sup­port for Sanders in your union at the local lev­el.” Recent­ly, numer­ous locals in the first-pri­ma­ry state of New Hamp­shire have endorsed Sanders, tak­ing heed to what Wil­son describes because of the can­di­dates’ long his­to­ry of pro-labor action.

In 2008, Sen. Sanders was there when SEIU 560 was look­ing at poten­tial lay­offs. He helped us turn the pend­ing lay­offs around so they didn’t occur. Local 560 is for­ev­er grate­ful to Bernie for all the sup­port over the years,” says SEIU Local 560 Sec­re­tary-Trea­sur­er Susan Rus­sell. Local 560 and Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers Local 490 in New Hamp­shire endorsed Sen. Sanders in late October. 

The Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union has also found Sanders’ sup­port help­ful. The Ver­mont sen­a­tor has made con­sis­tent calls for an expan­sion of the postal ser­vice and has advo­cat­ed for postal bank­ing, amid calls for its pri­va­ti­za­tion. The New Hamp­shire state-lev­el APWU, as well as locals in Mass­a­chu­setts and one in Philadel­phia, have endorsed Sen. Sanders, as union activists have pressed for an endorse­ment from the nation­al organization. 

APWU Pres­i­dent Mark Dimond­stein told lis­ten­ers, We should judge can­di­dates not by what they say, not by what we wish they said, not by what par­ty they are affil­i­at­ed with, but what they actu­al­ly do — the dif­fer­ence between those who talk the talk and those who walk the walk. By using that cri­te­ria, Bernie Sanders has proven to be a cham­pi­on of not only postal work­ers and postal unions but the pub­lic postal ser­vice itself.” 

Bian­ca Cun­ning­ham, a for­mer Ver­i­zon Wire­less retail work­er who alleges she was fired in retal­i­a­tion for her union orga­niz­ing in Brook­lyn store­fronts, said she was thrilled” about Sen. Sanders’ active sup­port for labor. On Octo­ber 26, Sanders joined a pick­et line with Ver­i­zon work­ers, cur­rent­ly rep­re­sent­ed by the Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Work­ers of Amer­i­ca (CWA) and IBEW, who are in the mid­dle of a con­tract dis­pute. Sen. Sanders also called for the For­tune 500 com­pa­ny to give Cun­ning­ham her job back.

There are dozens of peo­ple run­ning for Pres­i­dent of the Unit­ed States, but there is only one that walks a pick­et line, there’s only one who is not afraid to take on the cor­po­rate elite that is destroy­ing good jobs and there is only one that isn’t tak­ing mon­ey from Wall Street or from cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca,” says Cun­ning­ham. Work­ing peo­ple have been hurt for far too long and we’ve been burned for far too long. It’s time for cor­po­rate Amer­i­ca to feel that Bern.”

For­mer CWA pres­i­dent Lar­ry Cohen fin­ished the call by decry­ing the fact that some ques­tion whether Sen. Sanders is elec­table against Clin­ton. Cohen cit­ed a new poll released by NBC News and the Wall Street Jour­nal on Wednes­day that has Sanders beat­ing Repub­li­can fron­trun­ners by larg­er mar­gins of vic­to­ry than Clin­ton to assert that Sanders is def­i­nite­ly electable. 

Instead of ask­ing if Sanders is a viable choice, Cohen told lis­ten­ers of the Labor for Bernie call that the real” ques­tions are: Are we fed up with busi­ness as usu­al? Are we tired of being on defense? Are ready to stand up for work­ing peo­ple with a pos­i­tive agen­da for change?” 

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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