Teamsters Endorsement Proves Elusive for Clinton

One of the first supporters of Obama in ’08 delays endorsement in Dem primary

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton / AP
October 2, 2015

The Teamsters are the latest union to delay endorsing embattled Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton.

The union’s 22-member executive board ruled that it would hold off on announcing its official support in the 2016 presidential race. Labor leaders said they would make a decision only after meeting with candidates face-to-face.

"The Teamsters look forward to meeting with Hillary Clinton, Sen. Bernie Sanders and any other candidate, regardless of party affiliation, who is committed to improving the lives of America’s working families. This would include Vice President Joe Biden should he choose to run. In addition to meeting with the candidates, the union plans to survey its leaders and membership as well," the union said in a release.

A union spokesman said the decision follows the general endorsement practices of the past, rather than a direct snub to Clinton, who has long been considered a lock for the Democratic nomination. Spokesman Galen Munroe told the Washington Free Beacon that union leaders did not want to endorse a candidate before consulting with its members at the local level.

"This is a review process of not just leadership, but members and local leaders to gauge where they are on candidates," he said.

The Teamsters are the latest major union to hesitate in endorsing a presidential contender. AFL-CIO, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) reached similar decisions in recent months.

Some early endorsers of former Secretary of State Clinton have faced a backlash from members who support insurgent socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., VT) and potential challenger Vice President Joe Biden. In August members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers fumed to labor publication In These Times that its leaders should not have endorsed Clinton.

Neither Clinton nor Sanders returned request for comment.

This is not the first time that Clinton has run into trouble courting support from the 1.4 million-member union. The Teamsters were one of the first unions to break away from Clinton and endorse then-Sen. Barack Obama in February 2008 after interviewing both candidates in the spring of 2007.

"Sen. Obama understands the challenges working people face every day," union chief James Hoffa Jr. said at the time. "He is the candidate in the best position to lead our movement to restore the American dream for working people in this country."

That support made a difference for President Obama, as the union’s PAC spent more than $13 million on the 2008 campaign, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. The Teamsters spent nearly $4.5 million and its PAC more than $14 million during Obama’s reelection campaign in 2012.

The union said it is open to the possibility of endorsing a Republican, as it did in the 1980s when it backed Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

"The Teamsters will work with and support any candidate who puts the needs of America’s working families above the deep pockets of their corporate donors," Hoffa said in a statement.

Endorsements are decided by a majority vote of the 22-member executive board. Munroe said the union does not yet have a timetable on when it will make its decision, nor has it arranged face-to-face meetings with any of the candidates.