November 16, 2007 Volume 108 Number 22

AFSCME backs Clinton against wishes of Western leaders

Calling her “the Democrat with the strength and experience who will always stand up for working Americans,” the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the largest union in the AFL-CIO, endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton on Oct. 31 for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The endorsement was made despite opposition from all of the union’s international vice presidents on the West Coast. That includes Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon AFSCME Council 75, and Greg Devereux, executive director of Washington AFSCME Council 28.

Allen said the vote came after a nearly two-hour debate. The final tally was 23 to 10 in favor of the endorsement, split along regional lines.

Allen said member leaders in AFSCME’s Northwest region — Oregon, Washington, Montana and Alaska — have been opposed to the endorsement.

“Polls for our region do not support an early endorsement for president,” Allen said. “So many of our members are unsure and there is division among the top three candidates.”

In fact, a presidential straw poll that’s been running for weeks on the Oregon AFSCME Website has consistently had Clinton running fourth. While not a scientific survey, Clinton has trailed (in order) John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich and Barack Obama from the poll’s outset.

Fred Thompson leads the Republican primary with 28.4 percent of AFSCME members supporting his campaign.

AFSCME representatives from Georgia, Hawaii and Illinois backed Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Clinton welcomed the endorsement from the 1.4-million-member union, especially when International President Gerald McEntee promised to mobilize AFSCME members in Iowa and try to turn out as many of its 30,000 unionists there as possible for the first-in-the-nation caucuses on Jan. 3.

“When it comes to fighting for America’s working families, I’ll go 10 rounds with anybody,” Clinton declared, referring to both the other Democrats seeking the nomination and to the Republicans. “This endorsement means the world to me.”

AFSCME joins the Machinists, the American Federation of Teachers, the Bricklayers and several smaller unions in backing Clinton. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina is backed by the Steelworkers, the Mine Workers and the Carpenters, an affiliate of the Change to Win labor federation. The Fire Fighters are supporting Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.).

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