Sanders Momentum Stalls in Union Front Offices
How many unions in the Sanders Donor List will actually endorse him, and how many will endorse the Citigroup candidate? (source; click to enlarge)
by Gaius Publius
Despite gathering two national endorsements recently — the nurse's union and the postal workers union — Senator Sanders campaign is having trouble convincing union leaders to support him instead of Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that many union members support Sanders. I've included one article on that below, from the LA Times.
Note as you read that the proffered reason for this disconnect is her assumed greater electability, of which there's no evidence at all. In fact, there's ample early evidence that Sanders is at least electable in the general election, perhaps even more so.
The unproffered reasons for union support for Clinton are more interesting, ranging from "carrot"-like attempts to purchase access and favors — as this "mainstream" environmental group appears to have done — to "stick"-like attempts to avoid being ignored and cut out of inner-circle decision-making. In the "carrot" case, the carrot works both ways, as an ask by the campaign as well as an ask by the endorsing group. The "stick" case works in only one direction; it's wielded by the campaign as an attempt to "incentivize" endorsements on the assumption the candidate will be the winner and in position to hand out, or withhold, favors.
I've heard many reports that the Clinton campaign is being very "aggressive" in acquiring endorsements. Regarding that, Howie has written of the Clinton campaign's attempt to round up super-delegates:
Democratic Party insiders-- not especially less craven or less corrupt than Republican Party insiders-- are completely in the bag for Hillary. Of the 712 Superdelegates-- a disgraceful scheme to tamp down the "excesses" of democracy by crooked, power-hungry careerists like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Steve Israel and Chuck Schumer-- 359 have pledged to vote for Clinton, whose campaign has been arm-twisting with shocking aggressiveness, while only 8 are pledged to vote for Bernie.Back to unions and union leaders' closeness to Democratic Party machinery, recall this, when 13 local unions decided, in defiance of the national AFL-CIO, to sit out the 2012 Democratic convention, held in Charlotte NC, in a right-to-work state and a city with no union hotels. Ultimately, the AFL-CIO was fine with that.
Clinton, Sanders & Union Endorsements
Now the LA Times story by Evan Halper:
Bernie Sanders' momentum Stalls in an Unlikely Place: Union HallsSo, national unions "representing more than half of America’s 14.6 million unionized workers" are already in Clinton's pocket, despite this:
... Despite Sanders’ deep support for labor, the national nurses’ organization that [Glendora nurse Allysha] Almada sought to join is the only major union to endorse Sanders in the race for the Democratic nomination for president. It is dwarfed by much larger labor groups that are lining up with his arguably less committed, less reliable rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton.
National unions representing more than half of America’s 14.6 million unionized workers are already in Clinton’s corner, and many of the rest are heading in that direction. It is creating significant tension in some of the organizations and raising the question of whether the Sanders campaign is faltering or if union leadership has lost touch with its rank and file, large numbers of whom are turning out to support Sanders with unrivaled enthusiasm.
“There is no incentive for elected officials to support working-class values if union leaders are going to then say, ‘We need someone more conservative because they will win,’” said Larry Cohen, a former president of the Communication Workers of America who is advising Sanders. “That is what we are getting here. … Secretary Clinton is fine. But she is a corporate Democrat. That hasn’t worked.”
About 80,000 union members have enlisted in the Labor for Bernie campaign, through which they are pressuring the heads of their various unions not to endorse Clinton. They launch social media campaigns denouncing their union leadership when they are ignored. Local chapters of unions in key early states have gone rogue and thrown their support behind Sanders. Many of them parrot Sanders’ call for massive change — the kind union leaders have been demanding for decades — and they are resentful that their organizations would back the establishment at a time the insurgency finally has so much momentum.Do union leaders represent their members, or do they represent, as Howie implied above, their own, personal careers?
Next Up, SEIU?
The next union endorsement to watch is the very large SEIU, the Service Employees International Union. In the Times article, Halper wrote:
Even so, the next major union poised to make an endorsement — the Service Employees International Union, which represents 2 million workers — is expected to throw its support behind Clinton.Halper says that union leaders say that internal polling shows 75% support for Clinton. Might even be true. But others are saying that union leaders are endorsing based on the best deal they can get:
“Union leaders are negotiators by nature,” [Cornell University Law professor Lance] Compa said. “They understand you can’t get everything they want. You get the best deal in the end. That is what they are looking at now” as they weigh whom to endorse.Which always invites the question, best deal for whom, the leaders, the members, or both? Against this backdrop, look for an announcement from the SEIU soon; at least, that's what Politico says:
WILL SEIU ENDORSE CLINTON TUESDAY?: Officials at the two-million-member Service Employees International Union have been told to clear their calendars Tuesday [November 17]. Will this be SEIU’s long-expected Hillary Clinton endorsement? “Everyone is saying the endorsement happens on the 17th,” an SEIU insider tells POLITICO. A final vote from the union’s executive board has not yet taken place, but it will have the chance to hold one at its Tuesday meeting. (The announcement could take place at a planned event with low wage workers also scheduled for Tuesday.)And don't forget the unspoken obvious, implied by this in the Politico piece:
SEIU spokesperson Sahar Wali confirmed that the executive board will meet Tuesday but said no endorsement decision had been made. SEIU executive committee Member David Rolf told us the same.
Joe Biden’s decision not to run cleared the path for a Clinton endorsement, the SEIU source tells POLITICO. Some staffers were less than thrilled when Hillary balked at endorsing a $15 minimum wage (she opted for $12 instead). But Clinton was the only presidential candidate to appear (albeit by phone) at SEIU’s Fight for $15 conference in June, and she’s shown up repeatedly alongside SEIU-represented home health care and child care workers during the past several months.
There are also some personnel ties between the campaign and the union: SEIU’s former deputy national political director, Heather Stone, became Clinton’s chief of staff in August.Insiders helping insiders stay in charge? You decide.
Insiders Protecting the Insider Game
I've said before that Sanders' problem, which is also his solution, is that he threatens to take apart the "insider game," the one where people who run things for their own benefit keep each other in charge, despite the damage done to us "small people," who will never be in charge if "big people" — insiders — can help it.
The most important thing to consider when thinking about the Sanders campaign is this. Everyone else who's running, on both sides, is an insider playing within — and supporting — the "insider game," the one that keeps insiders wealthy and outsiders struggling, the one where the wealthy and their retainers operate government for their benefit only. What sets Sanders apart is his determination to dismantle that game, to take it apart and send its players home (back to the private sector) or to jail.There are examples at the link. Or consider this, from the LA Times again:
Sanders is not the first labor absolutist to confront this kind of betrayal. Other similarly positioned Democrats have been through it, including former presidential candidates Tom Harkin and Dick Gephardt.And:
Ironically, it is now Harkin, a former Iowa senator now supporting Clinton, who is trying to rally laborers for the establishment candidate. He took a swipe at Sanders this week during an interview on Boston radio, heard in New Hampshire, where Democrats are threatening to disrupt Clinton’s march to the nomination by voting for Sanders.Ironic indeed. Also, it makes the point perfectly. Over to you, SEIU.
(If you like, you can help Sanders here; adjust the split any way you wish at the link.)