POLITICS
11/17/2015 12:39 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2015

SEIU Endorses Hillary Clinton

Another major union chooses her over Bernie Sanders.
ASSOCIATED PRESS

The Service Employees International Union endorsed Hillary Clinton for president on Tuesday, giving her candidacy the official backing of yet another huge labor union.

The SEIU represents 2 million workers in the service sector and is one of the most politically powerful unions in the country. Having already received endorsements from some of the largest public-sector unions, the Clinton campaign can now credibly say she is organized labor's consensus candidate, despite the passion for Bernie Sanders among rank-and-file union members.

"Hillary Clinton has proven she will fight, deliver and win for working families," SEIU's president, Mary Kay Henry, said in a statement. "SEIU members and working families across America are part of a growing movement to build a better future for their families, and Hillary Clinton will support and stand with them."

The endorsement by SEIU doesn't come as a surprise. The choice between Clinton and Sanders has often been cast as a "head versus heart" decision. Sanders has been a strong ally of organized labor during his 25 years in Congress, and he's the sentimental favorite of many progressive union members. But union leaders generally see Clinton as their best shot to defeat a Republican in the general election, and they find her labor platform appealing even if it's less progressive than Sanders'.

In the case of SEIU, there's reason to believe rank-and-file membership would broadly support Clinton over other candidates in the Democratic primary. The union has a high proportion of African-American and Latino members -- demographics that have clearly favored Clinton over Sanders in polling. According to SEIU, the union carried out three national town hall meetings and polled membership three times since last year before settling on Clinton as a candidate.

Even before Tuesday's announcement from SEIU, Clinton had already locked down union endorsements representing a majority of the unionized workers in the U.S. That includes the two primary teachers unions -- the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, which together boast 4.6 million members -- as well as the 1.6 million-member American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. She's also picked up the endorsements of the carpenters' union and the machinists' union, among others.

Sanders has so far received two endorsements from national unions, both much smaller than those groups -- National Nurses United, which represents 185,000 workers, and the American Postal Workers Union, which has 200,000 members and endorsed Sanders earlier this week.

SEIU has been the primary union behind the Fight for $15, which has roiled the fast-food industry with periodic strikes and protests in cities around the country. Both Clinton and Sanders have voiced their support for the movement, though only Sanders and fellow presidential candidate Martin O'Malley have said they back a national $15 minimum wage. Clinton has instead said she supports $12.

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