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AFT Announces Presidential Endorsement

The union decided to support Sanders, Warren, and Biden

Kris LaGrange's picture
Feb 21, 2020

The third-largest union in the country, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) has made an endorsement in the Democratic primary. However, their unique endorsement may not clear things up for their members or the candidates.

In 2016, the AFT took a lot of heat from their members for making an early endorsement of Hillary Clinton, without asking for the input of the membership. With a significantly larger field of candidates, many of whom have a long history of working with the AFT, the union decided to wait on an endorsement. Instead, they held town hall meetings with each of the candidates and broadcast them on their social media channels for members to see. According to the union, this year's endorsement process involved unprecedented membership participation.

With most of the deadlines to enter the race past and voting have begun not only in Iowa and New Hampshire but also in Nevada, South Carolina, and many Super Tuesday states the union decided it was time to make their feelings known. In a telephone town hall on Thursday night, AFT President Randi Weingarten, Scranton (Pa.) Federation of Teachers President Rosemary Boland, AFT Vermont President Deb Snell and Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang announced that the union is “encouraging locals and state affiliates to support, be actively involved with, or endorse the candidacies of Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren, ahead of the selection of more than 60 percent of the delegates by the end of March.” Essentially the AFT is saying that they support all three of the candidates.

“We are fighting for working families and our communities to have the freedom to live, and a voice at work and in our democracy,” said Weingarten. “While several candidates in this race share our values, three in particular—Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders, and Sen. Warren have significant support within our membership. There is a real connection with these three candidates because of their record of working with us over the years on public education, higher education, healthcare, labor, and civil rights. Given the stakes of this election, the enthusiasm among our membership to engage, and the nature of the democratic nomination process, ou,r board felt strongly that until the AFT makes a national endorsement in the primary process or at the AFT convention, it is important that our affiliates, members and leaders, including the three national officers, be actively involved in supporting and helping Vice President Biden, Sen. Sanders, and Sen. Warren.”

While the AFT did announce last year that they would allow local unions to endorse a candidate before the national endorsement, very few , took the opportunity to make a local endorsement. This move by the national union is significant as well because they are now the largest union to have made an endorsement. It was also a pointed rebuke of former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg who has a long history of feuding with teachers’ unions and supporting non-union charter schools.

Sanders is in a very close second in the delegate count and is the presumed front runner due to his high polling numbers in many of the upcoming states. While Warren has floundered in the early states, her future may be changing after a stellar debate where she systematically ripped Bloomberg apart on a number of issues. For Biden, this is an important endorsement. He has seen his national lead slip away and he has lost his front runner status, but in the last few weeks he has locked up the endorsement of the IBEW and now the AFT.

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