The New Hampshire chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont for president, reports The New York Times. In doing so, the Granite State chapter broke ranks with national leadership, which has remained neutral in the endorsement process.
About 10,000 workers across New Hampshire are represented by the SEIU’s collective bargaining contract, and its national affiliate organization represents about two million workers nationally. In a statement, New Hampshire SEIU president Rich Gulla praised Sanders’ commitment to labor issues, saying that workers are “thrilled” to endorse him for president.
“Senator Sanders has taken the time to stand with us on multiple occasions. This type of unwavering dedication to New Hampshire’s workers means that we can trust him to have our backs. For these reasons and more, we are thrilled to endorse Senator Bernie Sanders for president.”
As The New York Times notes, during the 2016 Democratic presidential primary, local union chapters had their hands tied as national bodies made the decisions. This lead to splits between local chapters and national organizations, so unions across the country have faced pressure to become more transparent and democratic about their endorsements.
The New Hampshire SEIU endorsed Sanders after a vote, and the national leadership did not object to the decision, according to individuals familiar with the process who spokes with the Times. The national union has yet to endorse a candidate. According to its spokeswoman, Sara Lonardo, the national leadership will “continue engaging our members nationwide to determine who they see as the best candidate for our union to endorse.”
Sanders has released a number of pro-labor policy proposals, including a sweeping “Workplace Democracy” plan. The proposal, which aims to double union membership during Sanders’ first term in office, would increase workers’ rights to bargain for better benefits and wages, ban companies from classifying employees as independent contractors and penalize employers who refuse to negotiate in “good faith.”
I’m 78. I plead guilty. But there is an advantage—you can check my record going back a long way. And I have stood up and fought for working families my entire life. pic.twitter.com/qE60vL8zSN— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 4, 2020
For Sanders, the New Hampshire SEIU endorsement comes on the heels of similar seals of approval from unions and progressive organizations. The Vermont senator enjoys the support of the National Nurses United, and prominent advocacy groups including People’s Action, Sunrise Movement and the Center for Popular Democracy.
The SEIU could help Sanders solidify support in New Hampshire, where he leads in the polls. The senator has surged in the two early states and continues to breathe down frontrunner Joe Biden’s neck in other key primary competitions. Even President Donald Trump has taken note of Sanders’ surge in the polls, with his campaign sending out emails blasting the Vermont senator as “dangerous.”