Friday, October 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders, Not Hillary Clinton, Deserves Union Endorsements | Ben Spielberg

Bernie Sanders, Not Hillary Clinton, Deserves Union Endorsements | Ben Spielberg:

Bernie Sanders, Not Hillary Clinton, Deserves Union Endorsements


The National Education Association (the union to which I used to belong) isconsidering an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton. This decision, like the American Federation of Teachers' endorsement of Clinton on July 11, would be a huge mistake.
One reason is that it would violate members' trust. As Peter GreeneSteven Singer, and Anthony Cody have noted, teacher voice is too often ignored in education reform conversations. If the NEA follows the AFT and makes a presidential primary endorsement without ample membership involvement, its teachers will feel silenced by their own union. Not only would that likely depress voter mobilization efforts andspark a backlash within the union, it also runs counter to the very principles of what a union is supposed to be.
An early Clinton endorsement would also be a mistake because she's a suboptimal candidate. While Clinton is far more union-friendly than anyone running for the Republican nomination, her labor credentials are significantly worse than her main challenger in the Democratic primary, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.
Sanders has been a steadfast union supporter since the 1970s. His advocacy on behalf of workers as mayor of Burlington, Vermont in the 1980s helped foster the growth of the city's socially-responsible business culture.
"Thanks to the enduring influence of the progressive climate that Sanders and his allies helped to create in Burlington," The Nation reported in June, "the city's largest housing development is now resident-owned, its largest supermarket is a consumer-owned cooperative, one of its largest private employers is worker-owned, and most of its people-oriented waterfront is publicly owned. Its publicly owned utility, the Burlington Electric Department, recently announced that Burlington is the first American city of any decent size to run entirely on renewable electricity."
Sanders has continued to advocate for the same causes in Congress over the past 25 years. In 1994, for example, he introduced the Workplace Democracy Act, legislation designed to strengthen collective bargaining rights. He currently supports theEmployee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workplaces to hold union elections, and plans to introduce a new Workplace Democracy Act this fall. He has "convened annual meetings of labor activists to help them develop more successful organizing and bargaining strategies" and still walks picket lines with workers.
To be fair, Clinton also supports the Employee Free Choice Act. Her campaign rhetoric is pretty pro-union, and the promises she makes in her video to NEA members don't sound all that different than those made by Bernie.
But Clinton's record is significantly worse than Sanders's. She served on the board of directors of Walmart -- which to this day remains one of the nation's most notoriously anti-union businesses -- from 1986 to 1992, for instance.
According to reports that surfaced in 2008, Clinton sat through dozens of board meetings without ever speaking up on behalf of organized labor. Instead, she stated that she was "proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else." Though she has since renounced Walmart's business practices, Clintonmaintains close ties with Walmart executives and lobbyists. And during her presidential campaigns, she's surrounded herself with staffers who have troubling anti-union connections.
The following meme, describing cumulative donations the candidates have received over the past thirty years, is illustrative:
Clinton has worse policy positions on key union issues as well. Bernie Sanders has been a leader in the effort to oppose the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a "free trade" deal that could undermine environmental and consumer safety protections and have harmful impacts on workers both in the U.S. and abroad.
Clinton, despite recent attempts to distance herself from the TPP, was heavily involved in negotiating and promoting it. Sanders has been a vocal proponent of a Bernie Sanders, Not Hillary Clinton, Deserves Union Endorsements | Ben Spielberg: