Pro-Clinton Unions Continue Full-Steam Ahead

By Jennifer Parker

May 12, 2008 4:18pm

Officials from four labor unions that endorsed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, say they will continue to lobby for her candidacy regardless of the daunting delegate math. One union is even hoping Clinton takes her battle against Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, all the way to the floor of the Democratic National Convention in August.

Rick Sloan, communications director for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers says the union is rallying its members to support Clinton in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon.

"We’re not slackening off at all — this is full speed ahead for us," he says. "We deal with really high tolerances building jets. Usually when we reach those tolerances we say, ‘This is terrific, this is quite a piece of work.’"

Sloan was a member of the platform committee and an at-large delegate for Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., on the floor of the 1980 Democratic convention, the last time there was a convention fight.

"Only 979 delegates separated (then-President Jimmy) Carter and Kennedy," Sloan says. So the smaller number separating Clinton and Obama — right this second a rough ABC Count has a 180-delegate lead for Obama — "isn’t a big swing. And none of these delegates are legally bound. She has 17 million votes, he has 17 million votes. The proper place to decide this is the convention."

ABC News contacted the four unions today to assess whether they would continue to spend union dues on a campaign many in the punditocracy have pointed towards a statue of St. Jude.

"We continue to support Sen. Clinton," says AFSCME’s Gregory King. "We’re going to continue to campaign full-steam ahead."

AFSCME had about 100 people each campaigning for Clinton in Pennsylvania and Indiana going door to door. "I presume we’re just continuing with that," King says. "As long as she’s the candidate our union is committed to supporting her."

Chuck Porcari of the American Federation of Teachers says "we’re running our program in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oregon as we speak, member-to-member phone and mail, and door-knocking."

Tim Stricker, political director of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades says his union is quite active in West Virginia and Kentucky, and will be in Oregon. "Of the other three remaining states," he says of Puerto Rico, Montana, and South Dakota, "we have practically no membership there."

Sticker says the IUPAT staffing isn’t as big in West Virginia and Kentucky as it was in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, but that’s only because "her numbers in both states make it safe enough we didn’t have to go full-bore. If we’re asked by the campaign to send some people in, we will, though right now I haven’t been asked by the campaign to do that."

"She’s our candidate and we’re with her until Barack is officially the candidate or if she releases us," he says. "I’m sure there’s a lot of our members who think it’s a lost cause. I’m sure if you polled it there’d be a number who said you’re wasting your time and efforts and money." But between 16,000 and 20,000 members of the IUPAT voted for Clinton by ballot, by a margin of four-to-one, so the union will stay with the date that brung them to the dance.

"Does it look like it’s an extreme long shot right now?" Stricker asks. "Yes. But stranger things have happened. One thing I’ve learned in the short time I’ve been in Washington, DC, is never count out the Clintons."

- jpt

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