SEIU Endorses Hillary Clinton, But Rank-and-File Activists Say Push for Bernie Sanders Isn’t Over

Mario Vasquez

Despite Bernie's history of supporting labor, many large unions are flocking to Hillary.

The Ser­vice Employ­ees Inter­na­tion­al Union (SEIU) announced their endorse­ment of Hillary Clinton’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign today, com­ing by way of a vote by their exec­u­tive board.

SEIU Inter­na­tion­al Pres­i­dent Mary Kay Hen­ry said in a state­ment announc­ing the endorse­ment, SEIU mem­bers and work­ing fam­i­lies across Amer­i­ca are part of a grow­ing move­ment to build a bet­ter future for their fam­i­lies, and Hillary Clin­ton will sup­port and stand with them.”

SEIU boasts close to 2 mil­lion mem­bers nation­al­ly and joins the Amer­i­can Fed­er­a­tion of State, Coun­ty & Munic­i­pal Employ­ees (AFSCME), the dock­work­ers’ Inter­na­tion­al Longshoremen’s Asso­ci­a­tion and the Nation­al Edu­ca­tion Asso­ci­a­tion in endors­ing Clin­ton, mean­ing that the for­mer Sec­re­tary of State now holds endorse­ments from unions rep­re­sent­ing about 9.5 mil­lion union members.

SEIU’s endorse­ment came as the union shores up a nation­al cam­paign for a $15 per hour min­i­mum wage with large actions last week — despite the fact that Clin­ton, as recent­ly as the Novem­ber 14 Demo­c­ra­t­ic can­di­dates’ debate, has said that she would rather sup­port a $12 per hour min­i­mum wage. Her Demo­c­ra­t­ic pri­ma­ry oppo­nents, Ver­mont Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders and for­mer Mary­land gov­er­nor Mar­tin O’Mal­ley, have both endorsed SEIU’s Fight for $15 move­ment and the call for a $15 per hour min­i­mum wage.

At the debate, Clinton’s main rival, Sen­a­tor Sanders, pressed Clin­ton on the fact that her top cam­paign con­trib­u­tors were from Wall Street (lead­ing to Clinton’s invok­ing 911). Sanders’ top con­trib­u­tors up until his pres­i­den­tial run were union mem­bers. But on the cam­paign trail, Sanders has found rel­a­tive­ly lit­tle offi­cial sup­port from major nation­al unions, as thus far only the Cal­i­for­nia-based Nation­al Nurs­es Unit­ed and Amer­i­can Postal Work­ers Union have come to endorse his cam­paign for pres­i­dent. Instead, aid­ed by a grass­roots move­ment made up of rank-and-file union mem­bers called Labor for Bernie, Sanders has found most of his offi­cial labor sup­port at the local level.

Rand Wil­son, a leader in Labor for Bernie, said in a recent con­fer­ence call for Sanders’ labor sup­port­ers, Some peo­ple on tonight’s call know that your union may have already made the endorse­ment for the oth­er can­di­date. 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.”

Cur­rent­ly, almost 30 dif­fer­ent locals from across the coun­try have endorsed Sanders, includ­ing eight locals of the Inter­na­tion­al Broth­er­hood of Elec­tri­cal Work­ers (IBEW) and one SEIU local in New Hamp­shire. Sanders could still receive anoth­er major local endorse­ment from SEIU 1199, as Cole Stan­gler recent­ly report­ed that their exec­u­tive coun­cil has decid­ed not to endorse any can­di­date for now.

Rod­ney Muham­mad, an SEIU 1199 mem­ber in Mass­a­chu­setts, echoed the con­trasts between Clin­ton and Sanders that are often men­tioned by Labor for Bernie sup­port­ers. Being a union del­e­gate and being deeply involved with the union, Bernie would have been the right per­son for the job. He’s pro-labor, he’s been on pick­et lines, he’s very proac­tive and he’s for $15 an hour. It just seems like Hillary Clin­ton has too many ties to Wall Street. She has not real­ly done much to pro­cure help for the unions over the past few years. The SEIU should have wait­ed until after the pri­ma­ry to make an endorsement.”

Dur­ing the 2008 elec­tion cycle, the union held off endors­ing a can­di­date until pri­ma­ry sea­son was almost over, endors­ing then-Sen­a­tor Barack Oba­ma in Feb­ru­ary 2008. In fact, over the course of that Demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ty race, more SEIU locals endorsed John Edwards than both Clin­ton and Oba­ma. As not­ed by Zaid Jilani, at this point in time in 2007, Oba­ma was polling a few points below what Sanders is polling at now — mean­ing that any candidate’s via­bil­i­ty is still very much in flux.

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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