Although many union bosses have already endorsed Hillary Clinton for the 2016 Democratic
presidential nominee. Luciana Lopez interviews union members who do not support Hillary Clinton, but whose dues dollars will go to support her campaign regardless of their wishes. With a Right to Work law in place, workers can resign their membership and make political contributions to the candidates of their choice. Check out the story on reuters.com.
California nurse Katy Roemer remembers how at the height of the Ebola crisis last year, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders marched arm-in-arm with union workers as they fought for hazmat suits and other protections to treat patients with infectious diseases.
Roemer’s gratitude is why she keeps a large stash of “Bernie” stickers and posters in her car and is urging people she knows to back his White House bid. She jokes that she will be telling friends and family members: “You’re not coming to dinner if you didn’t vote.”
If Hillary Clinton wins the Democratic nomination, Roemer said she would vote for her in the November 2016 general election but she will not volunteer for her campaign.
Roemer’s comments crystallize a risk Clinton faces as she courts organized labor – a potential enthusiasm gap. Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, has racked up a string of formal endorsements, but many rank-and-file union members remain drawn to Sanders.
In the race for union endorsements, Clinton has more than a dozen from national unions, representing more than 10 million members. By contrast, Sanders has notched two national endorsements, for about 385,000 members.
But in many cases, there have been divisions within unions. Dozens of interviews with rank-and-file members show Sanders generating more passionate support based on his years of walking picket lines, attending social gatherings and intervening in labor disputes.
Even so, Clinton may have little trouble securing the Democratic nomination. Her commanding lead over Sanders has widened in recent weeks, but the passion gap indicates Clinton has more work to do in wooing union workers.
In some cases, endorsements of Clinton by national unions such as the American Federation of Teachers and the machinists’ union have generated debates among members on social media.
The Service Employees International Union, representing 2 million workers including nurses, janitors and other service workers, is one example of divided loyalties. Despite the national endorsement of Clinton, some of SEIU’s local units have endorsed Sanders, as have the American Postal Workers Union and Roemer’s union, the National Nurses United.
But even with growing expectations that Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, she is expected to need the help of union members in the general election campaign.
Steve Schale, a Democratic strategist, sees a real fight brewing for the general election and said unions will be valuable players.
In Oregon, nine members of local 503 emailed the international union’s executive board this month, asking them not to endorse yet, in what one union activist characterized as a “hail Mary pass” to stop a potential Clinton endorsement.