AFL-CIO To Try To Recruit and Endorse Pro-Worker 2016 Presidential Hopeful

WASHINGTON–The AFL-CIO will try to recruit and endorse a pro-worker presidential hopeful before the 2016 campaign for the Oval Office starts, the federation’s Executive Council decided.  But circumstances could even force an endorsement in 2015.

“As part of the (endorsement) process, the AFL-CIO Executive Board will take a proactive approach by discussing and potentially identifying a pro-worker presidential candidate and encouraging such a candidate to run for president in the 2016 election,” the council decided.

Its decision was in a wide-ranging council statement issued July 31 on the federation’s 2016 presidential endorsement process.  In the statement, the council strongly recommended individual unions hold off on their own endorsements for the White House.  But it did not order them to do so.

It also said the fed’s Executive Committee, a smaller group of 20 or so officials led by federation President Richard Trumka, would get the ball rolling this November.

The council’s action is important because if the federation recruits and unites behind one hopeful, it could marshal its member unions, state federations, central labor councils, members and allies behind that candidate in the run-up to the 2016 primaries.  The fed did so – at its 1999 convention – for then-Vice President Al Gore.

Just after this fall’s election, the federation’s political committee, now chaired by AFSCME President Lee Saunders, will “begin to assemble information on any announced and/or likely candidates,” and will finalize a questionnaire to send to them, it said.

After the questionnaires are returned – by the end of this year – the fed will send copies of the responses to its member unions.  “Affiliates agree that no endorsements will be made in 2014,” the council says.

Starting in January, the political committee will invite presidential hopefuls to discuss issues and campaign viability.  Saunders’ committee will compile the results of those interviews and the questionnaires for the council’s 2015 winter meeting.

But an individual union can force the fed’s hand, so to speak, by filing its own notice of a planned endorsement, starting in January, 2015.  “Such notice then requires the political committee to make a recommendation regarding endorsement to the executive council within 60 days,” the council admitted.  Otherwise, the political committee will either recommend a candidate, or opt for no endorsement, in time for the council’s 2015 summer meeting.

After that, “normal procedures for an endorsement apply,” the fed said.  That means winning council votes of unions representing a super-majority of federation members.