The leader of one of the nation’s most powerful labor unions has joined the campaign of 2016 Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, and he said the reason he signed up with Sanders instead of Hillary Clinton can be boiled down to one issue: Trade.
Larry Cohen, outgoing president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), said he has joined the Sanders campaign as an unpaid volunteer, and added that he wasn’t with Clinton because she has refused to say where she stands on granting fast-track trade authority on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Cohen noted:
“I did everything I knew how to do to get Clinton to speak out on fast track, and she wouldn’t. We begged her to speak out. There was a million ways she could have done it….Why was she silent on this?”
Progressive groups, including labor unions and environmental activists, have been strongly opposed to the TPP deal. Last week Congress, led mostly by Republicans in both houses, passed fast-track authority for President Obama as the trade agreement moves forward.
The former Secretary of State has refused to say definitively where she stands on fast-track for TPP. She did, however, make some remarks in which she indicated she might not be supportive. Clinton said she would “probably not” be in favor of such authority and added:
“Because that’s a process vote, and I don’t want to say that’s the same as TPP.”
Cohen said Clinton’s equivocation made his decision to join the Sanders camp an easy one:
“Without a candidate like Bernie, we’re going to get a repeat of the same stuff. Bernie is movement-building, and we need a new movement. We need to get big money out of politics.”
The announcement by Cohen does not imply that the CWA, which has some 700,000 members, is endorsing Sanders, but it is indicative of the momentum Sanders has been building in recent weeks, including massive rallies across the country, an aggressive fundraising operation, and progressive policy positions which have drawn enthusiastic support from the base of the Democratic Party.
Cohen said that labor, traditionally a strong ally of Democrats, cannot be taken for granted:
“The key is him (Sanders) being the progressive candidate. You build the movement — you don’t just inherit it from labor or any other tent. We’re not a rubber stamp for the Democratic Party,and certainly not for corporate Democrats.”