March 23, 2020
Contact: Natalia Pérez Santos

AFSCME Endorses Biden, ‘A Champion for Working People’

Presidential race now a “once in a lifetime” decision between a seasoned leader “with a gut level understanding of what keeps working people up at night” and a president who “kicks working people to the curb”

Vice President Biden’s strong pro-worker record – including support for public service workers, health care for all, union rights for all workers – underpinned endorsement vote

WASHINGTON — The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union of 1.4 million public service workers nationwide, has endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden for President. The endorsement was made by a unanimous vote of the union’s 35-member International Executive Board, which convened its quarterly meeting by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For decades, Joe Biden has been a champion for working people, the labor movement and public service workers,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “He shares our values, and he will fight for our voice on the job and our seat at the table. He has a gut-level understanding of the challenges and struggles keeping working families awake at night. He knows that the union difference means better jobs and stronger communities, an economy that extends opportunity to everyone, not just the wealthy and well-connected.”

Vice President Biden’s pro-worker platform includes:

  • Supporting state and local governments to ensure public service workers have the tools they need to do their jobs;
  • Protecting and expanding on the Affordable Care Act to lower costs, increase choice and simplify the system;
  • Increasing college affordability and alleviating student debt, including for people who work in public service;
  • Strengthening the freedom of all workers to bargain collectively and join together in a union.
By contrast, President Donald Trump, despite promising to look out for America’s “forgotten” men and women, has further rigged the economy against them, enriching himself and his billionaire friends, including:

  • A trillion dollar tax giveaway overwhelmingly benefitting the rich;
  • Relentless efforts – through legislation, regulation and the courts – to take health care coverage away from working families, including protections for pre-existing conditions;
  • Attacks on civil rights, including workers’ rights by rewarding anti-worker advocates with powerful positions of influence;
  • Attacks on public education, retirement security and food assistance.
Instead of making an early endorsement, AFSCME encouraged all the candidates to engage with members and learn more about their work in public service. The result was a primary campaign that put labor’s priorities front and center, with candidates embracing unions unapologetically in a way unseen in national politics in many years.

In August 2019, AFSCME hosted the 2020 Public Service Forum in Las Vegas, where members had the opportunity to hear from and pose questions to 19 presidential candidates. Similar gatherings were held around the Iowa and Nevada caucuses. AFSCME also educated members about the candidates’ platforms and conducted polls that gave members the opportunity to register their views.

“The contrast in the upcoming general election could not be clearer,” Saunders added. “The last several weeks have demonstrated more clearly than ever that Donald Trump, in addition to pursuing an agenda that kicks working people to the curb, does not have the right stuff to capably lead the nation through a grave public health crisis. He has tried every way possible to destroy the Affordable Care Act – even supporting a lawsuit currently before the Supreme Court to have it ruled unconstitutional – and leave Americans with pre-existing conditions out in the cold. This is not the moment, in the middle of a pandemic, to undermine people’s health care.

“Vice President Biden is equal to the task and then some. He is a seasoned leader with the temperament and character to help Americans pull together in challenging and uncertain times. And he recognizes the urgency of helping public service workers who are on the front lines of containing the coronavirus pandemic.

“This has been a competitive and spirited battle for the Democratic nomination, with all candidates making valuable contributions to the debate over the country’s future. But now is the moment for unity and solidarity. The stakes are too high for anything less. This is a once-in-a-lifetime election. There is no higher priority than denying Donald Trump a second term. It is time for Democrats, union members and all working people to organize and mobilize to make Joe Biden the 46th President of the United States.”

By AFSCME Staff · Tuesday, February 25, 2020

At Nevada Event, AFSCME Members and Retirees Question Candidates on Priorities

On the eve of the Nevada caucus, AFSCME members and retirees heard one last time from candidates or their surrogates on the issues that matter most to working families.

On the eve of Saturday’s Nevada Democratic primary caucuses, AFSCME members and retirees gathered at a Las Vegas restaurant to hear one last time from presidential candidates on the issues that matter most to working families.

At Doña Maria Tamales Restaurant, Nevada public service workers and retirees, members of AFSCME Local 4041 and Chapter 4041, respectively, heard from candidates and their surrogates about a future in which Donald Trump is no longer president of the United States and Washington finally makes progress on the priorities of the middle class.

From crushing student loan debt to prescription drug affordability, AFSCME members and retirees sought clarity on the candidates’ positions a day before casting their votes. Topics also included securing the right to collective bargain for public service workers across the nation; fighting climate change; undoing the Trump tax cuts that benefitted the wealthy and corporations at the expense of working families; protecting Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; improving the nation’s infrastructure; preserving LGBTQ rights; and more.

The forum, hosted by AFSCME President Lee Saunders, welcomed former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg and philanthropist Tom Steyer, as well as surrogates for the campaigns of former Vice President Joe Biden, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, who signed a bill last year giving collective bargaining rights to state workers, was another guest.

Saunders encouraged AFSCME members and retirees to continue to make their voices heard, including by running to serve as delegates to the Democratic National Convention, to be held in July in Milwaukee.

“When we have a candidate, let’s work like hell, as we do. Let’s organize and mobilize and educate our members, our communities and our families,” Saunders said. “Let’s win in November.”

Local 4041 President Harry Schiffman said, “We cannot take another four years of Republican leadership. It’s time for us as working people to stand up and take our country back.”

By Pablo Ros · Monday, February 03, 2020
If you followed every Democratic presidential primary debate and read the candidates’ positions on every topic and watched the AFSCME Public Service Forum held in August, you might think there is nothing left to know about the men and women vying to be the next president of the United States.

But don’t tell that to the AFSCME members of Iowa Council 61 who participated in Saturday’s “Coffee Caucus” in West Des Moines, hearing from the candidates and their surrogates in a more intimate setting about the issues that matter to them.

For the candidates, it was one remaining opportunity to meet with voters and reach an audience beyond (a live feed of the event has been watched more than 170,000 times on AFSCME’s Facebook page) before Iowa caucusing begins today.

“Every single one of these candidates talks about the importance of unions,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders, who hosted the event, in answer to an AFSCME member’s question before the candidates and their surrogates began making appearances.

Saunders, joined by Council 61 President Danny Homan, was contrasting the current moment, in which unions are at their highest approval rating in nearly half a century, with circumstances just a few years back, when “you wouldn’t hear the word union come out of politicians’ mouths,” as he put it.

Today, nearly half of nonunionized workers in the nation would join a union if given the chance. That’s because working families everywhere are learning about the union difference, and candidates are paying attention.

The few dozen AFSCME members who gathered at Tavern II, a family restaurant, got to hear directly from candidates Bernie Sanders and Tom Steyer, as well as from representatives of the campaigns of Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Amy Klobuchar, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang.

They asked questions covering collective bargaining rights, health care, student debt relief, education funding, combating privatization or the outsourcing of public sector jobs, and more.

The candidates and their surrogates, each in their own way, made the case that unions have a key role to play in creating an economy that works for everyone. They insisted that the federal government must make it easier, not harder, for workers to form strong unions, and that all public service workers in the country should have the right to negotiate together.

Union members turn out to vote at higher rates than the general public, and AFSCME members at even higher rates than other union members. That’s because AFSCME members are engaged in their communities, and they are sure to make a difference in the upcoming election, which Saunders said is “the most important election of our lifetime.”

AFSCME has yet to endorse a 2020 presidential candidate, choosing instead to encourage contenders to engage with public service workers around the country.

“Whoever wins (the Democratic primary),” Saunders said, “all of us have a responsibility to rally around whoever that person may be because we’ve got to take back the White House.”