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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Edwards Ahead in Race for Union Endorsements

In the wake of the AFL-CIO’s decision not to endorse any Democratic presidential candidates before the primaries, Open Left‘s Chris Bowers takes a shot at predicting the breakdown of endorsements by individual unions.
Bowers sees Edwards with the strongest chances to win the endorsements of the Steelworkers, Firefighters, Carpenters, Transport Workers Union, Machinists, Boilermakers and UNITE-HERE. In the comments on Bowers’ article, ‘Peter from WI’ says Edwards is in position to get the the endorsements of two giant unions, the Teamsters and SEIU, as well, but he also believes that most national unions won’t endorse anyone before the primaries. Tasini at Daily Kos gives Edwards the inside track to win endorsements from the Laborers and UFCW. Bowers doesn’t say anything about the UAW specifically, but he says Edwards “also seems to be competitive among every other union in the country, with the exception of the American Federation of Teachers.” Edwards recruitment of former Rep. David Bonoir, a trusted supporter of the UAW, as his national campaign manager, however, may give Edwards the cred to get the UAW’s embrace.
The AFT endorsement will likely go to Clinton, according to Bowers, and he also gives her a chance to get the nod from the Firefighters, Teamsters and AFSCME (The New York Times reports AFSCME is “leaning” toward Clinton). Obama is “in the running” for endorsements from AFSCME, SEIU and the Teamsters.
Apparently none of the “second tier” candidates are given much of a chance to get major union endorsements, despite all of them having generally pro-labor records (with some significant disagreements about trade). Some state and local union affiliates free to make separate endorsements, however, may spread their support more broadly over the Democratic field.
Edwards, the son of two union organizers, has campaigned energetically for union support, as part of his strategy to win the votes of one of the largest swing constituencies, the white working class. (For more on this, see Fortune Magazine Washington bureau chief Nina Easton’s CNN article, “John Edwards: Union Man“). Although most workers are not union members, the unions provide money, muscle and credibility for their endorsees, and many unorganized workers take favorable note of the AFL-CIO endorsement in the general election.
Happily for all the Democratic candidates, whoever wins the Democratic nomination will get the endorsement of the AFL-CIO, and it is certain to be labor’s strongest effort ever.

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