UNITE HERE New England Union Locals Endorse Bernie Sanders: He “Resonates With Our Members”

Mario Vasquez

(Brookings Institute / Flickr)

UNITE HERE’s New Eng­land Joint Board (NEJB) endorsed Sen­a­tor Bernie Sanders for pres­i­dent on Jan­u­ary 22 after the union’s exec­u­tive board vot­ed unan­i­mous­ly to “[answer] Bernie’s call for a polit­i­cal revolution.”

The NEJB is a region­al col­lec­tion of 10,000 work­ers from 51 dif­fer­ent UNITE HERE locals that have his­tor­i­cal­ly rep­re­sent­ed women and new immi­grants in man­u­fac­tur­ing, hotel and food ser­vice jobs. Over the years we have come to know Bernie as a relent­less and unflap­pable fight­er for work­ers,” says Bert Barao, a rank-and-file mem­ber of UNITE HERE Local 177 and pres­i­dent of the NEJB exec­u­tive board. Bernie is the can­di­date who will put work­ers and their fam­i­lies first.”

NEJB is cen­tered in Boston, poten­tial­ly strength­en­ing Sanders’ cam­paign in the state, ahead of its Super Tues­day pri­ma­ry elec­tion on March 1. Only one of the locals orga­nized under NEJB is made up of New Hamp­shire work­ers, so the union’s get-out-the-vote efforts might be neg­li­gi­ble with Sanders already surg­ing well-ahead of his chief Demo­c­ra­t­ic oppo­nent, for­mer Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clinton.

But the locals of NEJB have joined the 47 locals across the coun­try that have already picked Sanders as their can­di­date. Clin­ton has received most of her endorse­ments at the nation­al and inter­na­tion­al lev­el, from unions’ offi­cial lead­er­ship—fac­ing crit­i­cism by Sanders sup­port­ers who have demand­ed more inter­nal debate among rank-and-file mem­bers before mak­ing such a deci­sion. (This indig­na­tion is most vis­i­ble in the imme­di­ate avalanche of Face­book mes­sages post­ed by mem­bers of near­ly every union after Clin­ton endorsements.)

Labor for Bernie, a grass­roots net­work of pro-Sanders union mem­bers have called on their home unions to either endorse Sanders or at least with­hold endorse­ments until the end of the pri­ma­ry. Rand Wil­son, a staff mem­ber at SEIU Local 888 in Boston, who is cur­rent­ly help­ing lead Labor for Bernie, explained the group’s pur­pose to Jacobin last Novem­ber: For all the fail­ings and weak­ness­es of the labor move­ment, unions are still demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly struc­tured and the member’s voice can have a real impact. We’ve tried to just make sure that mem­bers real­ize that they have a role and a respon­si­bil­i­ty and a right to speak out and wher­ev­er we can. We’ve tried to give the mega­phone to the mem­bers to do that.”

With Sanders com­ing up ahead of Clin­ton in Iowa and New Hamp­shire in some polls, the Demo­c­ra­t­ic cau­cus in Neva­da on Feb­ru­ary 20 will be cru­cial in build­ing momen­tum for either camp. Culi­nary Work­ers Local 226, also a UNITE HERE affil­i­ate and Nevada’s most polit­i­cal­ly active union, recent­ly announced it would not be endors­ing any can­di­date before the state’s cau­cus­es. The Culi­nary Work­ers notably endorsed then-Sen­a­tor Barack Oba­ma in 2008 after his upset win over Clin­ton in Iowa ear­li­er that year. That endorse­ment start­ed a drawn-out war between the Oba­ma and Clin­ton cam­paigns, with Clin­ton lat­er accused of race-bait­ing and try­ing to lim­it vot­ing access for casi­no work­ers whose union had endorsed Oba­ma. (She would end up win­ning the Neva­da cau­cus­es but los­ing the primary.)

NEJB Pres­i­dent Barao said in a state­ment, In these times, where big banks, cor­po­ra­tions, and the wealthy few hold enor­mous pow­er over both our econ­o­my and polit­i­cal process, we are in des­per­ate need of a Pres­i­dent who will chal­lenge the pow­ers which have whit­tled down our mid­dle class. Bernie’s pledge to fight inequal­i­ty, take on the big banks, and spread oppor­tu­ni­ty to all Amer­i­cans not just the few, res­onates with our members.”

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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