Rating the presidential hopefuls: Only a few support unions in public

VIRTUALLY ALL of the Democratic presidential hopefuls support strengthening workers’ right to organize and raising the minimum wage, but only four – Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio – have backed workers’ rights and unions in public, before the DNC’s nationwide TV audiences. The others, including Joe Biden, Kamala Harris and Pete Buttigieg, have discussed strengthening workers’ rights only before union audiences.

Washington (PAI) – By the time you read this, the madcap race for the Democratic presidential nomination may have shrunk to a manageable size – eight to 10 hopefuls, rather than 24 or 25.

That’s because the Democratic National Committee, sponsor of the series of nationally televised debates between the aspirants, has imposed higher criteria for those who seek to qualify for the third round, in September.

Still, considering eight to 10 contenders leaves workers and their allies with a lot of sorting to do between now and the Iowa caucuses, the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries, the Nevada caucuses and then, next March 3, Super Tuesday.

Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California will be on that debate stage in September. So will former Vice President Joe Biden and Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind.

Those five have name recognition (Biden and Sanders), organization and popular support (Warren), a big base in the Golden State (Harris) and a nationwide network of backers from a particularly loyal pro-Democratic group (Buttigieg from the LGBT community) to make it. All five have the money to compete on Super Tuesday. So give them extra scrutiny. After them, it’s a crap shoot.

Virtually all the candidates support strengthening workers’ rights, especially the right to organize. All also support raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But there is one key difference: only four have backed workers’ rights and unions in public, before the DNC’s nationwide TV audiences: Sanders, Warren, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. The four also support strengthening the rights of all – emphasize “all” – workers.

The others, including Biden, Harris and Buttigieg, discussed strengthening workers’ rights only before union audiences. Those four and the other 15 who spoke at a special AFSCME political conference in Las Vegas on Aug. 3 said national legislation is needed to ensure collective bargaining for state and local government workers.

For Biden, it was his second declaration of loyalty to public workers and their bargaining rights. The first was at the Fire Fighters Legislative Conference earlier in the year.

Unions are taking their time on endorsements and workers should do so, too. Here are some things to keep in mind.

All the candidates oppose privatization of two big public services, so-called “charter schools” and privately-run prisons. They also oppose GOP President Donald Trump’s continuing war against federal workers and against workers’ rights and job protections, notably health and safety protections.

All the hopefuls denounce Trump’s racism, sexism, xenophobia, encouragement of white nationalism and Muslim hatred. They increased their criticism after an anti-Hispanic gunman massacred 22 people, most Hispanic-named, in El Paso, Texas after posting a manifesto that echoed Trump’s racist rhetoric. Buttigieg was the bluntest, directly tying the murderer to Trump’s white nationalism.

All the hopefuls also support comprehensive immigration reform. All want to keep the “Dreamers” in the U.S., though only a few mention legalizing all undocumented people already here, which the AFL-CIO and other unions favor. One is Sanders, who would also extend his Medicare For All plan to cover them, too. Former San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro wants to make crossing the U.S.-Mexico border without proper papers a civil, not criminal, case.

Sanders, former Rep. James Delaney (D-Md.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (DFL-Minn.) cite their parents, and in Klobuchar’s case, her grandfather, too, as union members. Sanders and Klobuchar say they got their values from their ancestors.

Delaney, a multimillionaire, declares his father, an electrical worker (IBEW), would not support single-payer government-run health care/Medicare For All or other progressive ideas, such as the Green New Deal, and he won’t, either.

The Green New Deal in particular splits Democratic “progressives” from “moderates” and splits the union movement, too. North America’s Building Trades Unions President Sean McGarvey is skeptical, and the Mine Workers hate it. Another group of unions, led by the Steelworkers, the Amalgamated Transit Union, the Bricklayers and National Nurses United, supports it.

Most of the hopefuls are skeptics of so-called “free trade” treaties, including the “new NAFTA” which President Donald Trump, strong-armed onto Mexico and Canada. Sanders has voted against every “free trade” pact since he came to Congress as Vermont’s sole U.S. representative years ago before moving over to the Senate.

Sanders fiercely blasts such “free trade” pacts as written by and for corporations. Warren calls the “free trade” pacts part and parcel of the “rigged economy.” Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) says such pacts let China “clean our clock” on trade.



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