Some of the nation’s top labor unions are holding off their endorsement of Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in case Vice President Joe Biden enters the race.
Public sector labor juggernauts Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) decided to delay any endorsement in the Democratic Primary, according to Politico.
Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.) hailed the delay as a victory and attributed it as much to Biden’s influence on the race from the sidelines as Sanders’ momentum.
"The hesitation on their part is likely due as much to Bernie as to Biden–he throws uncertainty into the mix," said Rand Wilson, communications director for SEIU local 888 in Boston, who said he personally supports Sanders.
SEIU and AFSCME represent major cash cows for their favored candidates. SEIU with a membership of nearly 2 million spent nearly $50 million helping Democrats in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. AFSCME, which represents about 1.6 million, spent $31 million that year.
The unions split their endorsements during Clinton’s failed primary against President Obama in 2008. SEIU endorsed Obama and spent nearly $30 million helping elect Obama. AFSCME, meanwhile, endorsed Clinton.
The public sector unions’ hesitance comes just two months after the AFL-CIO, the largest labor group in the country, announced it was delaying any endorsement in the Democratic primary.
Clinton has been wooing labor in an attempt to head off the insurgent campaign of Sanders, a longtime labor ally popular among rank-and-file members. That could be a major hill to climb given their career alliances among labor groups, as the Washington Free Beacon reported in June.
A review of campaign fundraising records conducted by the Labor Union Report found that all of Bernie Sanders’ top donors come from Big Labor, which could complicate Hillary Clinton’s tack to woo union support.
Nine of Clinton’s ten most generous donors are investment banks, white-collar law firms, or companies, such as Cablevision and Time Warner, that have a history of union disputes.
Clinton has directed special attention at SEIU, appearing in person and over the phone at two major SEIU events in May and June, praising its campaign to impose $15 minimum wages at fast food franchises.
Clinton has an early advantage in union endorsements with six major labor groups backing her candidacy, compared to a single Sanders endorsement. Those endorsements have created some controversy.
In July, the American Federation of Teachers broke ranks with its parent union AFL-CIO by announcing its endorsement of Clinton. That sparked a revolt among rank-and-file members who embraced Sanders.
One labor official told Politico that the union hopes to avoid similar dissatisfaction by delaying the endorsement.
"We are determined to take the time necessary to make sure every voice is heard," an AFSCME official told Politico.