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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Clinton’s Wide Net Strategy to Win Labor Support

Those who follow the role of American labor unions in politics will find “Hillary Clinton’s multi-step strategy to woo labor: Before winning over AFL-CIO, she hopes to gain backing of individual unions” by Brian Mahoney and Gabriel Debenedetti of interest. Writing in Politico, the authors explain:

…The Democratic front-runner’s machine is turning its attention to individual leaders one by one, looking to methodically win over unions as she faces off against an insurgent Bernie Sanders — a longtime union ally whose fiery rallies have riled up rank-and-file labor members across the country.
Clinton spent about an hour with the AFL-CIO’s executive council on Thursday, with the ultimate goal of securing the formal endorsement of the federation of 57 labor unions and the political organization and millions of dollars in campaign money that would come with it. But while Sanders shows staying power in the early-voting states, the organized labor movement sees an opportunity to gain leverage over the party’s likely nominee, whose labor bona fides are still a topic of debate among some activists.
As a result, Democrats associated with multiple campaigns don’t see the AFL-CIO taking the rare step of backing a candidate in the Democratic primary anytime soon, even if they expect it to eventually back Clinton and to keep urging local groups to stop backing Sanders…The Clinton campaign’s targets in the meantime? Some of the prominent unions that make up the AFL-CIO.

Debenedetti and Mahoney go on to note that Clinton has secured a key endorsement from the influential1.6-million member American Federation of Teachers, and is actively wooing the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, United Food and Commercial Workers and the 1.8 million member Service Employees International Union.
As for issues, the authors report that Clinton is focusing on “the AFL-CIO’s central demand for 2016: raising wages,” while remaining undecided regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, which Sen. Bernie Sanders and former MD Governor Martin O’Malley oppose, joined by key unions, including the United Steelworkers.
Meanwhile, Sen. Sanders is reportedly racking up support from rank and file, as well as local labor leaders. Sanders, who is held in high regard by American labor leaders across the nation has a near-perfect track record on his votes on issues of critical concern to unions. Any union would be more than comfortable with a Sanders presidency. Should Clinton win the Democratic nomination to run for president, however, a Clinton-Sanders ticket would be hugely popular with unionized voters, who would likely also be fine with O’Malley against any Republican.
Despite numerous articles in recent years about organized labor’s declining membership and impact, when it comes to elections, no progressive constituency provides more support for Democrats in terms of both money and manpower than unions. That is a leading reason why Republicans are constantly seeking to destroy and undermine labor and worker rights.
Conversely, the next Democrat to win a landslide victory in a presidential election would be smart to strongly support and work for policies to revive the American labor movement, which remains the best hope for reducing income inequality and improving living standards for millions of American families.

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