Bernie Gets Support of Union He Backed on Erie Strike

WASHINGTON (CN) – Facing an increasing challenge to his second-place position in the 2020 Democratic primary, Senator Bernie Sanders picked up an endorsement Monday from a major national union.

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders speaks to striking telecommunications workers on Sunday in Louisville, Ky. Sanders showed his support for the striking workers before attending a rally in the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. (AP Photo/Bruce Schreiner)

The United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America is the first union to endorse the Vermont senator in his bid for the White House. At its national conference Monday, the union passed a resolution endorsing Sanders and recognizing his support for the union’s members in disputes with employers in the past.

“Bernie understands the need for workers to have a democratic, independent union movement that is unafraid to challenge corporate America’s stranglehold on our economy,” union General President Peter Knowlton said in a statement. “From four decades of actively supporting UE members and other workers in Vermont, to his vocal support for our 1,700 members in Erie, Pennsylvania, who went on a nine-day strike this past winter, Bernie Sanders has always made it clear which side he is on.”

After a nine-day strike that ended in mid-March, union workers at the Erie plant agreed to a four-year contract in June.

Thanking the union for its support in a speech at its national convention in Pittsburgh on Monday, Sanders mentioned the Erie strike as consistent with his campaign’s focus on income inequality.

“UE’s successful strike in Erie has sent a message to corporate CEOs across the country that it is absolutely unacceptable for profitable corporations to provide obscene compensation packages to executives, while ripping off workers and their families,” Sanders said. “Our fight is about the need for an economy that works for all Americans and not just the one percent, and we are going to win that fight together.”

Sanders has made it a goal to double union membership in the United States over the course of his first term if he wins the White House, unveiling a labor plan that would make it easier for unions to organize and eliminate so-called right-to-work laws, among other policy initiatives.

The endorsement comes amid rising polling momentum for Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who now sits just half a point behind Sanders in the Real Clear Politics polling average. Sanders and Warren sit about 11 points behind the frontrunner, former Vice President Joe Biden, according to Real Clear Politics.

As recently as April, Sanders was roughly 6 points behind Biden, with Warren and other contenders in a distant pack polling in the single digits.

In a new national poll from Monmouth University out Monday, Sanders is in a virtual three-way tie with Warren, at 20%, and Biden, at 19%. The poll showed a sharp drop in support for Biden, but has a margin for error of 5.7 percentage points in either direction.

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