NYC Transport Workers Union Snubs Clinton By Endorsing John Edwards, the Most Electable Democratic Presidential Candidate

TWU Local 100 president Roger Toussaint smiles while speaking to the Transit Workers Union as democratic presidential hopeful John Edwards, right, looks on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007  in New York. The Transport Workers Union of America announced today that it is endorsing  Edwards for president of the United States.  (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

 AP Photo: TWU Local 100 president Roger Toussaint smiles while speaking to the Transit Workers

By JESSE J. HOLLAND, AP Labor Writer Thu Sep 6, 7:31 PM ET

WASHINGTON – The Transport Workers Union of America endorsed John Edwards on Thursday, saying the former North Carolina senator was the most electable of the Democratic presidential candidates.

Edwards accepted the endorsement in New York, surrounded by several union members.

"It’s because of you that people can move around the city of New York, that people can move around America," Edwards said.

In 2005, the transit union went on strike, paralyzing New York City for 60 hours at the height of the Christmas shopping season and angering scores of working New Yorkers who rely on city subways and buses. The union was fined $2.5 million over the walkout, which was prohibited by state law.

Edwards refused to say whether he believed transit workers should be allowed to strike without sanctions, saying he would focus as president on strengthening the union movement.

The endorsement is Edwards’ fourth from a union. He was endorsed on Labor Day by the United Steelworkers and the United Mine Workers unions. He also has been endorsed by the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The Transport Workers Union has 200,000 members and retirees in airlines, railroads, public utilities and public transportation, including workers at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City, the nation’s largest public transit system. They also represent workers at Amtrak and at American and Southwest airlines.

The endorsement from the New York City-based union was a snub to Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York senator and the Democratic front-runner. On Thursday, Clinton picked up her third union endorsement from the Transportation Communications Union.

"She gives American workers the best opportunity to have a friend in the White House and a strong advocate for their issues," said union president Bob Scardelletti.

The union of 46,000 mostly railroad workers is in the midst of a merger with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers union, which has already endorsed Clinton. She has also been endorsed by the United Transportation Union.

Republican Rudy Giuliani garnered the backing of the U.S. Airport and Seaport Police, a member of the International Association of Airport and Seaport Police (IAASP).

"Mayor Giuliani’s record of leadership speaks for itself, especially the remarkable resiliency he displayed in the days following Sept. 11th, as he worked side by side with police officers," said the group’s director, Jay Grant.

 End of AP Story – Street here.  

Here are some quotations that help us understand why Edwards is gathering up labor endorsements:

1.  "The American labor movement is not merely an anti-poverty force…it’s the leading anti-poverty program in American history"

 –  Statement at town hall meeting in Washington Iowa, June 2007 (repeated on numerous occasions by Edwards in 2007)

2.  "Scabs" — a word Edwards has rused to describe strikebreakers during Iowa campaign appearances in the summer 2007.

3. "How do we bring about big change? I think that’s a fundamental threshold question. And the question is [speaker looks over at Barack Obama]: Do you believe that compromise, triangulation will bring about big change? I don’t. I think the people who are powerful in Washington — big insurance companies, big drug companies, big oil companies — they are not going to negotiate. They are not going to give away their power. The only way that they are going to give away their power is if we take it away from them ((APPLAUSE)…If you want real change, you need somebody who’s taking these people on and beating them… To have a president that’s going to — is going to fight for equality, fight for real change, big change, bold change, we’re going to have to somebody — we can’t trade our insiders for their insiders. That doesn’t work. What we need is somebody who will take these people on, these big banks, these mortgage companies, big insurance companies, big drug companies." 

 – John Edwards, comments during CNN/YouTube Debate, Democratic Presidential Candidates, Charleston, South Carolina, July 24, 2007, transcript available online at http://edition.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/07/23/debate.transcript/index.html.

4. "The choice we must make is as important as it is clear.  It is a choice between corporate power and the power of democracy…It is caution versus courage. Calculation versus principle.  It is the establishment elites versus the American people…Politicians who care more about their careers than their constituents go along to get elected…It’s a game that never ends, but every American knows – it’s time to end the game. " 

 – John Edwards, comments in speech at Hanover, New Hampshire. August 23, 2007 

Now of course I know all about the difference and conflict bewteen the populist rhetoric of Democratic campaigns and the harsh plutocratic realities of policy and "governance" in capitalist America, but if readers feel compelled to write me and tell me about all that  they are free to do so. I also know about the difference between corporate-crafted quadrennial elections and the development of popular institutions and movements over time.  But with all this and more to remember, the fact remains that Edwards is running to Hillary-Obama’s labor left in ways that are garnering him considerable heartfelt labor support (especially at the rank-and-file level) while costing him in the critical game of winning corporate (finance and media) approval.    

Other key union endorsements so far (it’s early….numerous big unions like UAW, Teamsters and SEIU are still in play of course): Hillary Clinton has gotten the United Transportation Union (125,000 retirees and railroad, bus and mass transit workers) and Chris Dodd has oddly enough gotten the critical International Association of Firefighters (more than 281,000 firefighters and paramedics). My sense is that Hillary couldn’t get the IAF but was able to pressure them not to endorse Edwards. 

I am unaware of a single union endorsement received by Barack "The Conciliator" Obama, whose smooth-jazz call for calm and cool cross-class empathy does not go over terribly well with the organized working class, which has been on the wrong end of three plus decades of one-sided class warfare of the unmentionable kind – from the top down.  

On the relatively populist and laborite Edwards as in fact the most electable of the top three Democratic presidential candidates in a general election match up with the Republicans (interesting),  see this key item from Rassmussen Reports, which reports that "Edwards remains the only candidate to comfortably lead all GOP hopefuls in general election match-ups" and that Edwards does better than all the other Democrats in general election match ups with leading Republicans.

We don’t hear much if anything about that in the dominant media election coverage, which seeks to portray the only relevant Democratic Party choices as Hillary or Obama, the ones with the really big political investment capital (Goldman Sachs et al.) behind them. 

See my recent ZNet piece on Obama and Wal-Mart in Chicago for one admittedly small and localized story that might help explain some of Obama’s difficulty getting labor endorsements.  

Here is a wonderful piece by Edward Herman on "market democracy" versus "real demcoracy" and on election investors’ and corporate media’s hostility for candidates perceived as being excessively populist.  And here is a related piece I did on why Edwards has been selectively skewered for populist hypocrisy by dominant media.




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