UPDATE (12/23/15): Senator Bernie Sanders has proposed postal banking (link, link, link, link, link, link, link) — and on their Twitter page the American Federation of Government Employees union (AFGE) is promoting Bernie's idea for doing this — even though the AFGE leadership (against their member's wishes) endorsed Hillary Clinton, and not Senator Sanders. But the postal workers union endorsed Bernie (link, link, link, link, link, link). I'm surprised I haven't seen a petition yet asking me to support Hillary for her idea to have postal banking (when actually, in this century, it's Senator Elizabeth's Warren's original idea). END UPDATE
The largest union representing federal employees — the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) — just recently endorsed Hillary Clinton, citing her differences with Republican candidates as one reason for their endorsement, but they didn't mention their reason for not supporting Senator Bernie Sanders. From the AFGE's website:
"Before we decided which candidate deserved AFGE's support, we reached out to all announced presidential candidates — Republican and Democratic — with a questionnaire to gauge their positions on federal employees. We conducted a scientific survey of our members' candidate/issue preferences, and Clinton’s support exceeded that of the next closest candidate’s by nearly a 2-1 margin. We monitored presidential debates, and held our historic presidential forum with the two candidates who promptly responded to our questionnaires." [You have to be a member of AFGE to login and see all the results.]
You can find part of the candidate's questionnaire and their answers posted further below from the last issue of AFGE's "Government Standard". Of all the presidential candidates, only Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders responded. AFGE’s National Executive Council said they met personally with both Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders in November.
"The scientific polled used a sample size of 800 respondents, contacted via phone – the gold standard on which all national polls are conducted. To get results that reflected the makeup of our membership, we had to make thousands more calls. Of our representative membership sample, 53% of members said they would vote for the Democratic candidate and 27% said they would vote for the Republican candidate, while 26% said they would vote for either. Of those who chose a democratic candidate, 42% said they would vote for Hillary Clinton while Bernie Sanders garnered 25%, with the remainder spread across other candidates, ‘won’t vote,’ or ‘undecided.’ Of those who said they would vote for a republican candidate, 18% chose Ben Carson, while 17% chose Donald Trump, with the remainder spread across other candidates, ‘won’t vote,’ or ‘undecided.’ The entire National Executive Committee and many Council presidents personally met with both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders."
It should be noted that the AFGE executives could have just as easily posted a poll for ALL their union members to sign in and vote; so why didn't they? Nothing very " scientific" about doing that.
The Washington Post writes: "The AFGE represents 670,000 federal government workers in 1,100 locals nationwide and has been very active in past get-out-the-vote efforts. The union endorsed then-Senator Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 race — but was critical of Obama when he initiated a three-year freeze [2011, 2012, 2013] on the basic pay rates for federal employees after becoming president."
[* It should be noted that federal workers got a 2% raise in 2010, a 1% raise in 2014, a 1% raise in 2015 and a 1.3% raise in 2016 — while Social Security beneficiaries will see no cost-of-living increases at all next year.]
The Washington Post also claimed that Hillary Clinton "now has the support of nearly 12 million union members from 18 national unions and labor alliances". But this is simply unfounded speculation. The union leaders may have endorsed Hillary, but it's a long stretch to imply that all the rank-and-file members (or even most of them) endorse Hillary. Key details have been left out.
Of the 670,000 federal employees that AFGE represents and of 300,000 dues paying members, only a mere 800 were polled. Of this 800, 424 said they would vote Democrat. Those who would vote "Dem or Rep" were not counted in the final polling of which Democrat they would support. Of the remaining 424, less than half (178) said they would vote for Hillary. Of the 670,000 workers that AFGE represents, a tiny sampling of only 178 members who were polled said they would vote for Hillary. That is what the AFGE endorsement is "officially" based on. Not very "scientific" at all.
After reading a slew of comments left in news articles and at Facebook groups, it is becoming quite obvious that AFGE's top brass (like most other union bosses) who endorsed Hillary Clinton, does not really reflect how the actual union members think. The rank-and-file have been very vocal about their disapproval — and it seems that most of them are wondering how their union leaders made this decision — as it appears that Hillary Clinton has the support of the union's top brass, but not from "the little people" — the rank and file membership, many (if not most) may support Bernie Sanders.
One reader speculated that Clinton is preferable for the union leadership because some unions believe her policy positions would presumably offer them greater bargaining power — they would prefer NOT to have single-payer healthcare plan (like Bernie Sanders advocates], since healthcare insurance perks in union benefit packages are one of the union's biggest bargaining chips. But with Medicare for All, private sector unions could probably negotiate for better pay raises.
Below are a few typical reader comments (out of hundreds) from AFGE's Facebook page. Only a handful seem to be Hillary supporters, who accused Bernie's supporters of being Bernie-bots and paid trolls.
- 800?!? How pathetic! On an issue so important you polled 800! With just a little bit of effort, nearly all members could have had an opportunity to select a candidate they would back. It's obvious that national does not care about it's members.
- 800 people were contacted via phone. Interesting you would use the phrase "gold standard" which Clinton used to describe the TPP. Was this landline or cell phones too?
- It would seem to me that a more accurate and unbiased polling method would be to email all union members giving everyone an opportunity to participate. Only 800 people responded. My question would be, were those questioned targeted by the union to get the responses the union wanted? Polling, in general, is something easily manipulated to garner the desired results.
- 800...that's definitely big enough to win. Over 300G members and you didn't poll 1% of the membership. Send me the hardcopy.
- Out of 300,000 members you polled (or paid a company to poll with dues paying monies) is .0026% of the total membership. Sounds legit (sarcasm). If you would have made a poll and emailed it to 100% of the members you would have had a more accurate response that reflects ALL members instead of just .0026% of members.
- Yeah, I read the questionnaires. The answers provided by Hillary and her staff were the least favorable to federal government employees and the most evasive and vague. Unconscionable that AFGE considers 800 members out of approximately 300,000 a representative sample. So much for representing all, or even a true majority, of AFGE members.
- Ya AFGE use your big word scientific, which actually means the poll was biased, and targeted those most likely to vote for Hillary.
- Using percentages isn't scientific, its mathematic, and shows a bunch of under qualified people making decisions for 300,000+
- Cool, now you lose members! Far more than 800! Here is an idea for you. Keep your political views to yourself! Your opinion is not only not needed it is inconsequential. You need to represent your member's interest and if it is diverse as you claim then you back nobody and let your member's voice stand through their vote. We will put together a legal coverage package, maybe through the FOP or whoever wants to supply it and we will make sure as many federal law enforcement officers leave your useless union as we can. We will make sure they are covered, legally and administratively. There is no other reason to give you money. If we can convert 50,000 people, that's $50,000,000 annually. That should wake you the hell up!
- AFGE sucks, stop paying your dues and see if they take a better approach.
- No one "called" me. I support Bernie Sanders for President. 800 respondents for this poll is not the "gold standard" of a statistical sample of 670,000 members.
- I'm done, Hillary and this union do not represent my interests! Say goodbye to all those new members including this one and a few more older ones.
- Well if 800 is your polling number I hope that 800 is big enough to win because that's about how many members you're going to have left! Good luck with that. Crooked is as crooked does!
- AFGE shame on you, you lie directly to your own constituency on your official FB page. You didn't really think your membership was going to buy this did you?
- This is enough to make me look at leaving the union. Obviously AFGE isn't concerned about our best interest, our jobs, our pay and they are bold faced liars to say "scientifically polled".
- I support unions, workers and progressive causes. I have no reason to believe that Hillary will. I'd be interested to know why you support her and how you think she'll be better for unions and workers than Bernie.
- WOW 800 people out of a country of 320 million. I could make a poll that say's that we no longer need unions.
Those responses aren't unique — they are very consistent with many other replies when other unions had also endorsed Hillary (See my links at the end of this post).
Below is part of AFGE' questionnaire for Hillary and Bernie from their "Government Standard":
Q. If elected, would you oppose further pay freezes or retirement cuts, or cuts to other benefits?
- Clinton: I will oppose across-the-board arbitrary pay freezes, retirement cuts, or cuts to other employee benefits. I also believe in the importance of meeting our commitments to retired federal employees.
- Sanders: Yes. For far too long, the extreme right wing has demonized, belittled, and sought to destroy the federal workforce. That is wrong, that is unconscionable, and that has got to change.
Q. Would you work to end sequestration without imposing further cuts to federal employees’ pay and benefits?
- Clinton: We need to compensate federal employees fairly for the work that they do for our nation rather than pursuing misguided, across-the-board cuts that hurt federal employee morale and make it harder for the federal government to recruit and keep the employees we need in our nation’s service.
- Sanders: Yes. I was one of only six senators in the Democratic caucus who voted against sequestration because I thought it was terribly wrong to reduce the deficit on the backs of the federal workforce, the elderly, the sick, and working families.
Q. If elected, will you insist that Congress agree to pay furloughed federal workers in any future shutdown?
- Clinton: I would work to avoid any government shutdowns...In the event of any future shutdown, however, I would insist that Congress agree to pay furloughed federal workers so that they can make ends meet while they are on furlough.
- Sanders: Yes. When the Republicans shut down the federal government in 2013, it was outrageous that 750,000 furloughed federal employees lost a combined $1 billion in pay. Many of these workers are working paycheck to paycheck. Federal workers should not be asked to sacrifice their pay and benefits because of a dysfunctional Congress.
Q. If elected, would you oppose efforts to repeal the prohibitions against the A-76 privatization process until those problems have been fixed? Similarly, would you support efforts to enforce prohibitions against contracting out work last performed by federal employees?
- Clinton: I would support keeping in place the government-wide prohibitions against further A-76 privatizations until the federal government has developed and implemented a process to fully evaluate proposals to privatize federal work. I would oppose efforts to contract out work unless doing so is actually in the best interest of the U.S. government and is clearly cost-effective.
- Sanders: I have strongly opposed the efforts of the George W. Bush Administration to privatize or contract-out government employees through arevision it made to OMB Circular A-76 in 2003. If the billions of dollars in no-bid contracts the Bush Administration provided to Halliburton, Blackwater, and other private contractors in Iraq taught us anything, it is that we should not be injecting the profit motive into the national security of this country. These privatization schemes are not only bad for federal employees, they ultimately lead to poorer services that the public depends on, and in many cases, could have a disastrous effect on national security.
Q. If elected, would you oppose efforts to manage federal employees by arbitrary caps, freezes, cuts, and other constraints, and instead support the management of federal employees by budgets and workloads?
- Clinton: I would direct agencies to choose the most effective way to accomplish government work, rather than setting arbitrary caps on the number of federal employees.
- Sanders: I believe that in many instances, federal workers are better trained, equipped, and experienced than private contractors. If elected, I would work with AFGE to ensure that the most qualified, experienced, and well-trained workers receive these jobs.
Q. If elected, are you committed to fully funding Social Security operations?
- Clinton: We need to keep defending the Social Security Administration from cuts and attacks so that Social Security can deliver effectively on the promises made to America’s seniors. In addition to investing in the vital employees who make Social Security run, we also need to invest in new technologies to reduce workload and make sure that employees are able to spend time on tasks that require their unique skills, rather than functions that can be streamlined or automated with no impact on Social Security beneficiaries.
- Sanders: I will work to expand, not cut, the SSA budget so that Americans are able to get their Social Security benefits processed on time and without delay. I would also work with the AFGE on a plan to significantly reduce the backlog in disability benefits. [See my posts here and here on Clinton vs. Sanders on Social Security.]
Watch Clinton and Sanders’ video messages to AFGE members and read their full questionnaire responses at www.afge.org/candidates [NOTE: You must be a member with a username and password to sign in. To all AFGE members: Please leave the other questions and answers in a comment below — or email me. Thanks.]
AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.
American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO
80 F Street, NW
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