Bernie Sanders wowed the audience at at a labor union conference Tuesday, calling them “brothers and sisters” and vowing to push an agenda they’ll like. “A strong middle class is synonymous with a strong trade union movement,” the Vermont U.S. senator said in a speech at the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers Business Agents conference at a Washington hotel...
The AFL-CIO executive council is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Silver Spring, Maryland, and reports have said it could delay endorsing a candidate. There’s some feeling among union members that Clinton needs to take a harder line against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a free trade pact pushed by President Barack Obama. Unions worry it will mean fewer and lower paying American jobs.
It’s promising that many rank-and-file activists have already signed up to join the “Labor Campaign for Bernie.” Last week, the Vermont State Labor Council urged the national AFL-CIO to support Sanders, calling him “the strongest candidate articulating our issues.” But if the rest of organized labor plays it cautious and safe, jumping on the Clinton bandwagon instead of rallying around Sanders, it will be just one more sign of diminished union capacity for mounting any kind of worker self-defense, on the job or in politics.
A Quinnipac Poll shows Hillary Clinton gets 55 percent of Democratic voters nationwide, with 17 percent for U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont. But nothing is every mentioned about Independent voters. A recent Gallop Poll shows 31% of voters identify as Democrat, 25% Republican and 41% as Independent. Another CNN poll shows Bernie Sanders leading all Republicans, beating out Hillary.
The most recent Quinnipiac University poll shows that in a hypothetical general election match-up, Sanders tops Trump 44% to 39%. In contrast, the survey found that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker to be in a tight race with Clinton. The poll's results mirror findings in a CNN/ORC poll conducted last week showing that among registered voters:
- Clinton would defeat Trump 56% to 40%
- Sanders would defeat Trump 59% to 38%
Then we have this from The Washington Post:
Sanders has undeniably been a more reliable ally for unions on the issues they most care about, especially trade. Though many leaders view Clinton warily, they recognize that she is the overwhelming frontrunner and see her as their best bet to hold the White House.
I spent yesterday staking out the AFL-CIO’s executive council meeting in Silver Spring, Md., where the leaders of the 56 unions that make up the federation are gathering behind closed doors to mull a possible endorsement in the Democratic presidential primary. Sanders got an hour to make his pitch Wednesday; Clinton will get an hour this afternoon. Then the union chiefs, who represent 12.5 million workers, will debate privately over what to do. Two-thirds of them need to sign onto any endorsement. That could be difficult at this stage in the nominating fight, especially with Sanders looking as strong as he does right now.
Here’s what the tension boils down to: Top political operatives inside organized labor – already reeling from long-term declines in membership – do not want to lose even more juice by backing the quixotic bid of a self-described democratic socialist from Vermont. But others lower in the ranks, and those who have worked closely with Sanders over his 25 years in Congress, are more concerned about ideological purity than anything else.
Sanders used his time yesterday to argue that he could actually win a general election. Normally, the senator does not speak from notes, but he carried with him the results of a CNN/ORC poll published Sunday that tested head-to-head matchups of him and Clinton versus various Republicans. Among registered voters, he was statistically tied with Jeb Bush, led Donald Trump by 21 points, and beat Scott Walker by 5 points. “Her numbers were a little bit better,” he said. “That to my mind answers the question of electability. Can Bernie Sanders win? Well, we know that CNN is an infallible news organization, don’t we? They never get it wrong. And they’ve told us that, yes, I can win!”
Sanders then made the case that he’s stronger on labor’s issues. “I am not aware that there is anybody in the House and Senate that has a stronger voting record for the AFL-CIO,” he said. “It’s a 98 percent lifetime voting record.”
Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.6 million-member American Federation of Teachers [AFT], defended her group’s early endorsement of Clinton. She’s a close friend and ally going back to Hillary’s days as first lady, so the move was not surprising but it drew quiet complaints from other union heavyweights about jumping the gun. “I love Bernie. I think he’s a great guy. As someone who personally believes you have to fight against oligarchs, I love that he uses the word,” Weingarten said. “This is someone who has spent 25 years fighting to change the balance, just like we have fought to change the balance, BUT what we need is to WIN in changing that balance, not just fight.” She knocked her hand on the table for emphasis and repeated the word “WIN” a few more times.
Washington Post: The endorsement was not a surprise to close observers - the AFT had supported Clinton in 2008 instead of Barack Obama - but the early timing may be designed to give Clinton a boost against her surging rival, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). Weingarten and Clinton have been friends since their days in New York, when Weingarten led the city's teachers union and Clinton ran successfully for the U.S. Senate. Weingarten sits on the board of the pro-Clinton PAC Priorities USA.
RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the 185,000-member National Nurses United, hinted that her group may endorse Sanders sometime in the next month. “He can talk about our issues as well as we can talk about our issues,” she said last night. “Bernie Sanders taught many of us single payer health care … His politics haven’t shifted in 40 years. It’s as though he’s from the labor movement.” Then she described the endorsement choice as “complicated” and “difficult,” saying it is “not black-and-white.” Sanders is headlining a 9 a.m. rally outside the Capitol this morning, cosponsored by her group, to celebrate Medicare’s 50th anniversary.
It would be historically unusual for the AFL-CIO to endorse so early. The federation as a whole has only waded early into a competitive Democratic primary twice over the past three decades (for Al Gore in 2000 and Walter Mondale in 1984). Normally, individual unions offer their own endorsements. Then the federation gets behind someone once it is clear who the nominee will be.