Bernie Sanders Gets Backing From Leading Union and a Liberal Group

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Another Progressive Group Backs Bernie Sanders.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders on Thursday received his biggest labor endorsement yet from the 700,000-member Communications Workers of America. The Vermont senator, a self-described Democratic socialist who has been lagging Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in union endorsements despite his populist campaign platform, said he “would have won a lot more national union support” if other national unions followed the same process as the CWA. “What we are seeing is a lot of grassroots support in union after union in this country, but that support has not necessarily trickled up to the leadership,” he said. Bernie Sanders is trying to demonstrate fresh momentum heading into the upcoming Democratic debate, announcing Thursday the largest labor endorsement of his presidential campaign. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) Democratic presidential bid on Thursday, in the organization’s first presidential primary endorsement since former Vermont Gov. Bernie Sanders’ bid for the Democratic presidential nomination scored two big endorsements Thursday, one from a major labor union and another from a progressive political action committee founded by former Vermont governor Howard Dean.

At an event where Sanders appeared with members of the union’s executive board, CWA President Chris Shelton said the decision to back Sanders was a reflection of strong support for him by the rank-and-file, expressed in a survey of the members. He’s also touting new fundraising numbers, demonstrating his ability to raise millions of dollars online at a pace comparable to President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign. The CWA executive board followed that lead with a unanimous Thursday morning vote, Shelton said, because of Sanders’s stances on the financial sector, debt-free college, health care, and “retirement security,” among other issues. The CWA, which has 700,000 members, is the third national union to endorse Sanders, after the American Postal Workers Union and National Nurses United. Shelton declined to comment on other unions’ endorsements of Clinton, which include those of AFSCME, the Laborers, and the Government Employees’ Union.

The union, which endorsed Sanders after polling its members, has a super PAC that can make unlimited independent expenditures in support of Sanders or against other candidates. “We will use whatever we need, with our own members and with working people across this country, to do every single thing we can to get Bernie Sanders elected to the presidency of the United States,” said CWA President Christopher Shelton. “This is what grass-roots activism is about,” Sanders said. “Any comparison about working people knocking on doors as opposed to billionaires making a contribution I think would be a false (comparison.)” Sanders earned Democracy for America’s endorsement after receiving nearly 88% of 271,527 votes cast by members and other progressives nationwide over a nine-day voting period. Roughly 14.6 million workers — about 11.1 percent of the workforce — are union members, according to U.S. government data. “Hillary Clinton is humbled to have such tremendous support from labor unions who represent a diverse coalition of millions,” said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the former secretary of state’s campaign.

Though the U.S. labor movement has shrunk in recent years, union activists are often crucial foot soldiers for Democratic candidates, willing to put in long hours to knock on doors and help register people to vote. Sanders, by contrast, “supports our issues, supports working issues, supports union issues,” said Anetra Session, another board member who wore a red T-shirt and a CWA lanyard.

The CWA endorsement comes as Sanders prepares to face off this weekend against Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley in the third Democratic debate of the presidential campaign season. The Democratic National Committee dropped the local TV sponsor of the event, WMUR, because the station has not resolved a labor dispute with one of it’s unions. Their leadership instead helped develop questions for a live interview conducted at the AFL-CIO summer meeting. “It would have been an empty endorsement coming from me,” said Shelton. “He could have gotten 22 votes from our executive board.

Clinton has locked up nearly 20 labor endorsements accounting for about 11 million members, including influential unions, such as the National Education Association and the Service Employees International Union. Last month, she announced “Hard Hats for Hillary,” a coalition organizing support for Clinton from millions of construction, building, transportation and other labor industry professionals. “She shares their commitment to fighting for an economy that works for every single American, not just those at the top,” said Clinton campaign spokesman Jesse Ferguson. However, MoveOn.org and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, two other progressive groups which do similar work to DFA, have not yet indicated whether they will endorse in the primary. Linda Sanchez, of California, in a Spanish-language op-ed. “Lasting change was bound to take more than a single presidency,” she wrote. “It will take a multi-generational effort, led by someone with the skills and the scars that making real progress often demands.”

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