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Major unions support Clarke to lead DOJ civil rights division

Major unions support Clarke to lead DOJ civil rights division
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Seven union groups representing millions of workers are backing President BidenJoe BidenObama: Ensuring democracy 'continues to work effectively' keeps me 'up at night' New Jersey landlords prohibited from asking potential tenants about criminal records Overnight Defense: Pentagon pulling some air defense assets from Middle East | Dems introduce resolution apologizing to LGBT community for discrimination | White House denies pausing military aid package to Ukraine MORE's choice to lead the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division, according to letters of support obtained first by The Hill.

The various trade groups represent educators, service workers, communications professionals, lawyers and utility workers. The letters, sent to the top senators on the Judiciary Committee, urge the Senate to confirm Kristen ClarkeKristen ClarkeDOJ settles with Pennsylvania city over language barriers to Spanish-speaking residents Justice faces pressure for action on civil rights post-Trump Senate confirms Clarke as first Black woman to lead DOJ civil rights MORE as assistant attorney general for civil rights.

"A Justice Department with a strong commitment to civil rights will improve the lives of educators, healthcare professionals, public employees and the communities in which AFT members live and serve. Clarke’s entire working life has been dedicated to this commitment," American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten wrote in a letter dated April 28.

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Clarke also received support in a letter from the National Education Association, which is the largest union representing teachers and school workers with more than 3 million members.

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which represents roughly 1.4 million workers, also backed Clarke for the job, citing her experience leading the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and serving as head of the civil rights bureau of the New York state attorney general’s office.

"At a time when tensions between law enforcement agencies and the communities that they serve are fractious, having competent and dedicated civil servants with demonstrated leadership skills in place at the Department of Justice is of the upmost importance," Teamsters President James Hoffa wrote in a letter dated April 27.

Other groups to write in support of Clarke over the past few weeks included officials from the Communications Workers of America, the AFL-CIO Union Lawyers Alliance, the Utility Workers Union of America and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

"Clarke’s two decades of experience fighting for civil rights makes her the right person at this time in our nation’s history to lead the Civil Rights Division. SEIU Members are confident that she will execute all federal laws that protect workers from discrimination and build towards an economy that truly works for all people, no matter their background," wrote Mary Kay Henry, international president of the SEIU and its 2 million members.

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Biden announced in January his intent to nominate Clarke as assistant attorney general for civil rights. If confirmed, Clarke would be the first Senate-confirmed woman and woman of color to head the Civil Rights Division.

At her confirmation hearing last month, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee criticized Clarke's advocacy as a civil rights leader on policing and voting rights. Lawmakers raised concerns over on an op-ed that she wrote in Newsweek last year following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, that included the progressive talking point “defund the police.”

Clarke denied that she believed in defunding the police and said that her column was intended to advocate for investing in initiatives that would make law enforcement’s job easier while promoting public safety.

If confirmed, Clarke would be tasked with addressing tensions around police violence against Black people, as well as a sharp rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. She would also face a push from Republican state legislatures around the country to restrict voting in ways that experts say will disproportionately affect minorities.