Labor unions wield increased clout in crowded 2020 Democratic race

Unions hold increased political power heading into the upcoming 2020 Presidential race.

The 2020 Democratic National Convention will be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the state where the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents more than 1.6 million public employees, was founded.

“The issues our members care about will be front and center in political debate heading into 2020,” AFSCME President Lee Saunders said.

“We’ve seen increased political and grassroots momentum propelling unions despite the attempts to take us out by the corporate interests behind the Janus case,” Saunders added. “That’s because unions are more important than ever to working families.”

With so many labor-friendly Democratic candidates in the mix, there will be stiff competition to get unions’ formal backing, and endorsements may come later than in past cycles.

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), which has about 1.7 million members, said the union’s executive council has crafted an endorsement process designed to maximize local engagement.

“You either chase a race or shape a race,” Weingarten said. “We want the candidates to not only hear the aspirations and the values and the needs of our members, we want the candidates to engage with us, not just tell us what they think, but answer the questions of our members.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has 1.9 million members, will bring back the “walk a day” program it used in the 2007-2008 presidential campaign and invite White House contenders to spend a day at work with one of its members. Participation in the program will be among the criteria the union uses as a baseline for supporting candidates, officials said.


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