Labor for Bernie: Respect Our Dissent

by Labor for Bernie 2016

After SEIU’s endorsement of Clinton…
Sanders’ supporters call on leaders to recognize and respect differences of opinion within the union

A significant number of SEIU local union leaders, stewards and activists waged a valiant campaign to stop an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president by the union’s International Executive Board (IEB).

Members created a Facebook page, initiated a petition campaign, spoke out at union meetings and with the press, wrote letters and made calls to top union officers.

SEIU Local 560 in New Hampshire endorsed Bernie Sanders, while SEIU’s largest affiliate, 1199 (United Health Care East), Local 503 (Oregon public employees) and Local 509 (Massachusetts social service workers) all passed resolutions calling for no endorsement.

However, despite our best efforts, SEIU endorsed Clinton on Nov. 17, 2015.  The IEB undoubtedly believed it was in the best interests of the membership.  Days later, in a major repudiation of the IEB’s Clinton endorsement, SEIU Local 1984 in New Hampshire voted to endorse Sanders after thorough membership engagement, debate and discussion.

SEIU’s decision to endorse Clinton is short-sighted and unprincipled. It is based on a failed strategy of engaging in purely “transactional” politics with corporate liberals.  That’s why members who support Bernie Sanders are so understandably frustrated.  Many feel that SEIU’s endorsement process was insufficiently responsive to rank-and-file sentiment.  Some are threatening to stop their voluntary contributions to SEIU political action funds.

While many of us strongly disagree with the decision, we need to stay united and continue the fight for our shared objectives: the Fight for $15, immigration reform, reinstating Glass–Steagall and winning campaign finance reform.

Union members who support Sanders will undoubtedly continue to campaign for him in their communities on a volunteer basis.  While respecting the union’s official endorsement, they should not be asked or required to work against him in the primaries by SEIU leaders and staff.

“While the national union may campaign for Clinton, we call on union leaders to respect those of us who have made up our minds to continue to support Bernie Sanders,” said Rand Wilson, a union staffer in Boston who supports Sanders.  “We have a legitimate difference of opinion about which candidate will best advance our issues, but everyone should respect and tolerate those differences and stay united behind our shared objectives.”

SEIU’s Bernie supporters are part of a much larger movement of workers seeking to do more than just elect a better candidate.  We are joining millions of Americans who have had enough with business as usual and are supporting Sanders’ broad call for a grassroots political revolution.

Labor for Bernie 2016 is a volunteer effort neither funded nor directed by the Sanders for President campaign. To join this grassroots mobilization, download useful organizing materials, or learn more about Bernie’s past and present support for workers and their unions, go to: http://www.laborforbernie.org

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