UE endorses Sanders, citing his support for workers
Sanders is seen in this picture giving support to striking telecommunications workers in Louisville, Kentucky. Yesterday he received the support of UE, another union whose striking workers he has backed during their strikes. AP

PITTSBURGH – Citing his long-time support for workers and especially those forced to strike, the independent United Electrical Workers convention unanimously voted Aug. 26 to endorse Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind-Vt., for president.

Their decision at the convention in Pittsburgh makes the 35,000-member UE, one of the nation’s most-outspoken progressive unions, the second union to issue a presidential endorsement this year. The first, at the moderate end of the political spectrum, was the Fire Fighters. They endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden.

Biden and Sanders are running close in two of the most recent public opinion polls that have Sanders, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Biden running neck and neck for first place. Biden has been losing ground with both Sanders and Warren gaining ground among the 20 plus contenders for the Democratic presidential nomination next year to face anti-worker pro-plutocrat GOP incumbent Donald Trump.

The polls didn’t matter to UE’s delegates. The long and strong support of workers by Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist and lead sponsor of Medicare For All and of his own comprehensive worker rights package – including new laws and executive orders – to boost union density in the U.S., does.

UE also strongly supports Medicare For All. The prior week, Sanders slightly retooled it to guarantee unions and workers a seat at the table if and when the program is created – and to make sure that current high-value benefits many union workers now get through private health insurance are not taken away.

“Bernie understands the need for workers to have a democratic, independent union movement that is unafraid to challenge Corporate America’s stranglehold on our economy,” said union President Peter Knowlton, who, after 30 years in UE, is retiring Oct. 31 at the end of his current term. He rose from being a field organizer to the union’s top job. He was with AFSCME before that. Knowlton plans to stay active with UE.

“From four decades of actively supporting UE members and other workers in Vermont, to his vocal support for our 1,700 members in Erie, Pa., who went on a nine-day strike this past winter, Bernie Sanders has always made it clear which side he is on.”

“Bernie has consistently come to UE strike lines and workplace actions. He has assisted locals in contract fights,” the convention resolution says. “Bernie was an outspoken supporter of UE Locals 506 and 618 in their first contract struggle with their new employer, Wabtec in early 2019,” after that firm bought the former GE engine factory in Erie.

“Bernie reached out to UE to offer whatever assistance that members needed and he could provide… His support for UE members during the nine-day strike gave us needed national recognition, and was instrumental in achieving a just settlement.”

“I am humbled to receive the endorsement of my union brothers and sisters from UE. We are running a true working-class campaign, which speaks directly to workers and confronts the massive inequality we see in our society today,” Sanders told the delegates at the Pittsburgh meeting.

“UE’s successful strike in Erie sent a message to corporate CEOs across the country that it is absolutely unacceptable for profitable corporations to provide obscene compensation packages to executives while ripping off workers and their families. Our fight is about the need for an economy that works for all Americans and not just the one percent, and we are going to win that fight together.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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