Three unions sit out coalition endorsement of Obama

Change to Win, a coalition of seven major unions, announced its endorsement of Sen. Barack ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Nation mourns Colin Powell The Memo: Powell ended up on losing side of GOP fight Powell death leads to bipartisan outpouring of grief MORE (D-Ill.) for president Thursday, despite the abstention of three of its affiliates, one of which endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) last month.

Change to Win claims 6 million members among its affiliates nationwide. Those affiliates include the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, and UNITE HERE (formerly the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees), all of which have endorsed Obama individually. Most recently, the Teamsters backed Obama on Wednesday.

Leaders from the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) abstained from the endorsement vote, held Thursday morning, having backed Clinton on Jan. 22. UFW Political/Legislative Director Giev Kashkooli told The Hill Thursday that “the UFW enthusiastically supports Hillary Clinton for president.”

The United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America (UBC), which endorsed former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) before he suspended his campaign, and the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) also abstained.

Change to Win Chairwoman and SEIU Secretary Treasurer Anna Burger said Change to Win was at a “threshold” where four of its unions had endorsed Obama, and the time had come to move forward.

Burger said in a conference call with reporters Thursday that UFW, UBC and LIUNA “were comfortable with us moving forward on our endorsement,” and added, “They abstained but there was no dissension.”

There is, however, disagreement over Obama’s courtship of UFW.

Burger said Obama had met in person with each of the affiliate unions. “He’s met with all of them, and he was also at our Change to Win convention in September,” where leaders from each affiliate union were in attendance, Burger told The Hill on Thursday’s conference call.

UFW Communications Director Vicki Adame disagrees.

“He did not meet in person with the farm worker leadership,” Adame told The Hill.

Both Clinton and Edwards, according to Adame, traveled to Fresno, Calif., to meet with about 100 member leaders of UFW, which represents 27,000 members, in person during the campaign; Clinton went in October and Edwards a few months earlier.

Obama did not, instead talking with UFW’s executive board in a conference call in early January. The invitation to meet with UFW’s leadership in person had been extended to all Democratic candidates for president.

But Adame says the lack of a face-to-face with Obama did not influence UFW’s decision.

“We listened to our member leaders,” Adame told The Hill. “From my understanding of that conference call, what he said to the farm worker leadership, and based on the two previous meetings, they chose to go with Sen. Clinton.”

LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan said his union abstained from the vote to continue its own endorsement process, which will require consensus from 60 percent of its members.

“Sen. Obama has proven himself to be a champion for working people and the membership of our union, as has Sen. Hillary Clinton,” said O’Sullivan, adding that surveys show that LIUNA members “generally mirror the public in candidate preference with no one candidate earning 60 percent support.”