Hillary Clinton wins major union backing

Endorsement of public service union means Clinton now has support of two thirds of all union members in US

The union that has spearheaded the campaign to set a $15 minimum hourly wage for all workers in the United States yesterday threw its weight behind the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton meaning that she now has the support of roughly two thirds of all unionised workers in the country.

Mary Kay Henry, the President of the 2 million-strong Service Employees International Union, SEIU, praised Ms Clinton saying she had “proven she will fight, deliver and win for working families.”

In the scramble every four years by Democratic candidates for union support, there is arguably no bigger prize than the SEIU.  The union’s sprawling membership includes hospital workers, nurses, building janitors and security guards.

Ms Clinton has hewed increasingly to the left in recent weeks, in part to ensure the broadest possible union backing.  This has included coming out against a proposed major new free trade deal with 11 Pacific and Asian nations that President Barack Obama has championed but which most unions deplore.

Now that she has secured the SEIU, Ms Clinton can count on the support of 9.5 million unionised workers out of 14.6 million in the United States.  That is an impressive tally with more than two months still to go before the first votes are cast in the state-by-state dash for the presidential nomination.

The former first lady earned the loyalty of the SEUI even though she has balked at a $15 minimum wage, preferring a more modest $12 per hour. Her principle rival, Senator Bernie Sanders, by contrast, has squarely supported the more generous level.  He has also called for still more drastic healthcare reforms to create a single-payer system that most unions would welcome.  Ms Clinton has not.

 

Tellingly, however, about 40 per cent of the SEIU membership is African American or Hispanic and the decision by the leadership to go with Ms Clinton may reflect her greater success in attracting minority voters.  Mr Sanders has very deep backing from young, college-educated and liberal white voters but has had difficulty making inroads with minority communities.

“As President, I will be proud to stand with SEIU and fight alongside them—to defend workers’ right to organize and unions’ right to bargain collectively, to raise incomes for working people and the middle class, and to ensure that hardworking Americans can retire with dignity and security,” Ms Clinton said.  

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