Sanders Picks Off Some Labor Activists In Iowa

A union member listens to Sanders in August 2015 with a crowd of 500 in Burlington

Who will union members back in the Iowa Caucus? On paper it would seem like Hillary Clinton will enjoy the overwhelming percentage of labor support in her corner on caucus night. Clinton has racked up endorsements from 17 national labor unions, representing more than 11 million members, including some of the largest and most influential like AFSCME, SEIU and the NEA. And several of them have deployed teams to Iowa to ensure their members turn out for Clinton.

But supporters of Bernie Sanders have long contended that while labor leadership largely backs Clinton’s bid for the White House, many rank-and-file union members prefer Sanders and will caucus for him. They also see strong support in the unions that have chosen to not endorse either. To that end the Sanders Iowa campaign released this week a list of labor activists and leaders in the state who back Sanders’ candidacy. That included several members of unions that already announced an endorsement of Clinton.

“I support Bernie Sanders for President because my kids shouldn’t be shackled by student loans like their old man,” said Jeremy Dumkreiger, a member of the Clinton-backing NEA, said in their press release. “I support Bernie because I worry that if my wife’s cancer comes back the for-profit insurance company will deny her care. We need to get money out of politics so these problems can be solved; Bernie will be the President to solve them.”

So far only three unions have taken up sides with Sanders: National Nurses United, American Postal Workers Union, and the Communications Workers of America. The CWA was Sanders’ biggest get, totaling about 700,000 members nationwide.

But Sanders activists see a lot more support from working class union members beyond those three endorsers.

“We’ve got huge Bernie support [at our local],” Chris Laursen of UAW Local 74 in Ottumwa told Starting Line. “I haven’t talked with one Clinton supporter here. People are starting to realize that corporate Republicans and corporate Democrats are promoting the agenda of their employers – the people who finance their campaigns.”

The UAW plans to stay out of the primary race altogether, as have several other major unions. So Sanders has relentlessly courted union members’ individual support throughout last year and this, including walking along an informational picket line in Cedar Rapids last Fall and attending many labor events in the state. Their somewhat evenly-dispersed membership in Democratic precincts could give Sanders the boost he needs to overtake Clinton in Iowa.

“There’s only one pro-labor candidate,” Laursen believes. “Bernie Sanders has fought for workers for over 30 years. We had some disastrous trade policies like NAFTA and CAFTA and the proposed TPP. These have exported over 12 million American jobs the last ten years or so. What did we get out of them? A few privileged people gained from it … good paying jobs were replaced with fast food restaurants.”

Laursen’s UAW Local 74 has about 600 members in the blue collar town of Ottumwa. There’s also a large UFCW local in town with a meatpacking plant, where Laursen says they’ve found a “lot of enthusiasm” for Sanders at. Many of them came out for Sanders’ recent event there.

“When Sanders spoke down [in Ottumwa] on [December] 30th, over 800 people attended, which was the largest crowd for a presidential candidate ever around here, probably by double,” Laursen says. “We get one shot at this. We’re not going to have another Bernie Sanders come along. We need radical change from the status quo. Bottom line: people are tired of their government being bought and paid for.”

Laursen has been talking with fellow union members daily about Sanders and hopes to get a speaker down to their next meeting. He’s worked closely with the Sanders campaign’s local staff in recent months.

“We’ve got to turn out young people, got to turn out workers,” he notes. “I guarantee you Bernie Sanders will win Iowa.”

Below is the full list of Sanders’ Iowa Labor Leadership Committee that his campaign sent out this week:

  • Steve Abbott, Communication Workers of America (CWA), State Council President (Blackhawk)
  • Jenny Arnold, American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 12 (Johnson)
  • Stephanie Bails, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1634, Vice-President (Johnson)
  • Mike Bates, American Postal Workers Union (APWU) DMI Local 44, President (Polk)
  • Shon Brakey, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET) Local 163 (Clinton)
  • Sheilia Burrage, CWA Local 7110 (Scott)
  • Robbie Cale, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 617, Vice-President (Lee)
  • Dustin Chase, IBEW Local 405, Board Member (Johnson)
  • Bruce Clark, APWU, State President (Dubuque)
  • Mark Cottrell, Laborers International Union of North America (LIUNA) Local 43, Field Rep (Retired) (Worth)
  • Linda DeLaughter, United Electrical Workers (UE) Local 893 (retired) (Clay)
  • Doug Devore, United Brotherhood of Carpenters (Johnson)
  • Kris Dixon, National Nurses United (NNU) (Polk)
  • Sandy Doerring, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 199, Board Member (Polk)
  • Jeremy Dumkrieger, National Education Association (NEA) (Woodbury)
  • Carrie Duncan, International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW), Chief Steward, Local 1010 (Henry)
  • Chris Eby, Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers & Grain Millers (BCTGM) Local 100g, former President (Linn)
  • Matt Eimer, BLET Local 152, President (Lee)
  • Deanne Enderlee, ISEA member at Southeastern Community College (Lee)
  • Dan Gosa, Heat & Frost Insulators Local 81 (Scott)
  • Ross Grooters, BLET Division 778, Legislative Representative (Polk)
  • Tom Kinn, National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Local 512, President (Blackhawk)
  • Rich Kurtenbach, IBEW Local 288 (Blackhawk)
  • Jeff Kurtz, BLET, former State Legislative Board Chair (Lee)
  • Chris Laursen, United Auto Workers (UAW) Local 74 (Wapello)
  • Tracy Leone, AFT Local 716 (Scott)
  • Steven Lucas, Plumbers and Fitters of East Central Iowa Local 125 (Retired) (Benton)
  • Jim Marshall, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 779 (Woodbury)
  • Vic McCuen, NALC Local 352, President (Polk)
  • John McNeil, United Brotherhood of Carpenters (Pottawattamie)
  • Mike Miller, NALC Local 352 (retired) (Adams)
  • Cindy O’Meara, IBEW Local 1632, President (Linn)
  • Kay Pence, CWA Representative (Scott)
  • Joe Pundzak, Central Iowa Building and Construction Trades Council, former Executive Director (Boone)
  • Mark Randall, BCTGM Local 10g, President (Linn)
  • Molly Regan, CWA (Scott)
  • Mark Rocha, CWA Local 7102, Chief Steward (Polk)
  • Phil Sanchez, International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Union Steward (Cerro Gordo)
  • Jay Saxon, United Steelworkers Local 105, Political Coordinator (Clinton)


by Pat Rynard
Posted 1/7/16

1 Comment on "Sanders Picks Off Some Labor Activists In Iowa"

  • I’m the Political Director for ATU-local 1192 in Waterloo, IA. I’ve been telling prospective Voters about how Mr. Sanders is one of us! How many of the Presidential Candidates actually ride Public Transportation, besides Bernie?! None that I kow of, so GO BERNIE GO !!

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