By MELANIE TROTTMAN – – – – –
The nation’s largest federation of labor unions is preparing to endorse Hillary Clinton for president next week, giving her campaign a boost from one of the Democratic Party’s key constituencies and turning away from Bernie Sanders, a candidate many in labor said embodied more of unions’ core values.
The AFL-CIO’s decision to move toward an endorsement of Mrs. Clinton before Mr. Sanders has competed in the final Democratic primary next week in Washington, D.C., underscores the belief among union activists that Mrs. Clinton has locked up the nomination, and shows the urgency many in labor feel of unifying the party and defeating Donald Trump.
The AFL-CIO’s political committee held a conference call Friday during which they voted to recommend to the general board that the federation endorse Mrs. Clinton, according to a person familiar with the call. The board is expected to agree, as nearly 80% of the union officials who hold a seat lead unions that have already endorsed Mrs. Clinton.
Though the political committee’s vote to recommend an endorsement occurred on Friday, the AFL-CIO is not expected to officially announce the endorsement until next Thursday at the earliest, the person familiar with the call said. The political committee is chaired by Lee Saunders, the president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which threw its weight behind Mrs. Clinton months ago.
The AFL-CIO endorsement could give Mrs. Clinton powerful support from union members and their families. Unions spend tens of millions of dollars on elections, mostly to back Democrats, and make millions of phone calls and visits to members’ homes and worksites to encourage them to vote.
When the nation’s top union officials huddled at an AFL-CIO executive council meeting in February, they decided to put off making an endorsement of any presidential candidate, a relief for Mr. Sanders’s campaign and a disappointment for Mrs. Clinton’s. Mrs. Clinton had already received the lion’s share of national-union endorsements that had been made at that point, but AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said union leaders would not be voting at that time on who to back for the oval office.
It wasn’t clear whether the group had failed to reach the level of support it needed to endorse a candidate at that time, or whether it chose to delay because of splits among, and between, some union leaders and rank-and-file members about who to back.
What is clear is that Mr. Sanders’s persistence in the race has pushed Mrs. Clinton farther to the left on issues ranging from trade to minimum wage.
That could benefit labor unions that care deeply about such issues, and will help them garner votes for the candidate heading toward November.
Still, union officials remain concerned that Mr. Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, is appealing to their members. They’re waging campaigns to counter that by depicting Mr. Trump as an anti-worker candidate.