Bernie Sanders jockeys for labour secretary position, but faces union-backed challengers

Sanders confirms he would take the position if offered

Graig Graziosi
Thursday 19 November 2020 20:09 GMT
Bernie Sanders credits 'progressive grassroots organisations' for Biden's apparent election victory

Sen. Bernie Sanders once again made it clear that he was interested in becoming the Labour Secretary in Joe Biden's cabinet.

During a CNN interview on Wednesday, Mr Sanders said he wanted to do "everything I can to protect working families in the country who in many ways are living in terrible desperation right now."

He said he would strive for that whether he remained in the Senate or moved into the Biden administration, but said if he had to pick, he would take the Labour Secretary position.

“I think something like secretary of Labor would be a very attractive position,” Mr Sanders said. “It would give me the opportunity to fight to raise the minimum wage, to a living wage, equal pay for equal work for women, it would give me the opportunity to make sure that workers who are entitled to overtime pay get that overtime pay.”

Mr Sanders said there was "a lot of work to be done in the Department of Labour."

The Department of Labour was founded in 1913 with the mission to "foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States."

Mr Biden has not yet signaled who he is considering for the role, but several individuals with strong labour credentials are throwing their names into the mix alongside Mr Sanders.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh has the support of the AFL-CIO and several of the organisations largest unions.

However, other unions - including the Communication Workers of America and at least one official from the United Auto Workers - have backed Rep. Andy Levin, who has worked as a labour organiser and union ally since the 1980s.

"So, if President-elect Biden asked me to serve in his administration, I would certainly have to consider it, especially if it was to continue my lifelong fight to increase the voice and power of working people in this country," Mr Levin told The Detroit News.

Mr Levin decline to comment on whether or not he has had any talks with the Biden administration.

The fact that so many powerful unions have already picked candidates to back for the position does not bode well for Mr Sanders.

The Vermont Democrat has a long history of organising and supporting labour movements throughout his political career. He also became one of Mr Biden's most public and outspoken allies after the former vice president clinched the Democratic nomination.

However, without having strong union support, Mr Sanders' faces an uphill battle making his case for the appointment.

Mr Sanders does have one significant advantage; placing him in a position of power may be seen as a token of goodwill from the establishment Democrats to the progressive wing of the party, which has long alleged that the party ignores its policy goals and values.

Business groups have balked at the idea of Mr Sanders in the role, wishing instead for a more "bipartisan" approach to the position.

Aric Newhouse, senior vice president of policy and government relations at the National Association of Manufacturers, voiced his concerns with The Hill.

“We think this is the time for middle ground, compromise, results-oriented policies and extremes on either side are not going to be conducive to getting things done in Washington. It's not about individuals, it’s not about people, it’s not about politics, it’s about policy,” he said when asked about the prospect of Sanders leading the Labor Department.

Business leaders are likely concerned that Mr Sanders would champion policies that would benefit workers but eat into the bottom line of industries, like a federal $15 minimum wage and stronger protections for unions.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in