March 28, 2016
By Joe Maniscalco
Brooklyn, NY – Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders has the strong and enthusiastic support of the rank and file even if the executive boards of most major unions say they are officially endorsing Hillary Clinton — that’s according to a group of workers helping to launch the Vermont senator’s newest campaign offices in his hometown of Brooklyn this weekend.
“The top echelons may be supporting Clinton, but the rank and file isn’t — they’re behind Bernie,” New York State Nurses Association member Mary Fitzgerald told LaborPress on Saturday. “The rank and file are supporting Bernie and not Hillary because they feel that there is a truth about this man. He’s always supported unions. And he is the one who will actually work for their vote.”
Sanders crushed Clinton in primary races held in Washington, Alaska and Hawaii on Saturday. Just two days prior, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union — a major player on the West coast — officially endorsed Sanders for president. Bloomberg’s latest national poll also puts Sanders ahead of Clinton 49- to 48-percent.
“I’m a fervent supporter of Bernie and his policies, and so are many of my friends, sub-groups of unions that often caucus together,” UFT member Katherine Brezler said. “They are largely the forces that much of the union can often lean on to get stuff done in the streets, but are often neglected when consulting for strategy or forward movement.”
Fellow UFT member Rachel Bernstein called her union’s early support of Clinton “the most disappointing thing.”
“And we would like to do anything in our power to reverse that [decision] because the manpower of the teachers, the blood of the UFT, wants Bernie Sanders more than anything in the world. He believes in a fair and decent public education – not privatized education. It’s clear that there is an establishment club. And Bernie’s not a part of it, and doesn’t want to be.”
Councilman Rafael Espinal [D-37th District], chair of the Consumer Affairs Committee, said that he is definitely “feeling the Bern” in Brooklyn.
“I’m supporting Bernie because he speaks to my people,” Councilman Espinal said. “I represent people in East New York and Bushwick and when Bernie speaks, he speaks about the people who live there — the Latinos and Blacks who are not being represented in Washington, D.C. We have 60,000 people living in our homeless shelters — 48-percent of those people have jobs. But they’re there because they can’t afford the rent. And what does Bernie want? He wants us to all have a good paying job. He wants us all to have someplace to live.”
Sanders is still behind in the delegate count and needs to continue building on the momentum his campaign has generated thus far. New York State is crucial. Democratic voters will go to the polls on April 19.
Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner [D-25th Distrct] said that she is supporting Sander over Clinton because the Brooklyn native has “heart-soul agreement.”
“Even as a twenty-something at the University of Chicago, his heart and soul were in the right place as he stood up against segregation and racism,” Turner said. “He didn’t need for anybody to tell him that was the right thing to do. It was in his heart and soul. He stood up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters when it wasn’t popular. Some elected folk just got religion — but he’s been doing the right thing all along.”
Despite’s the UFT’s endorsement of Clinton, Bernstein said that there are many teachers like her who will be voting for Sanders the rest of the way.
“It’s a pretty known thing that we felt hoodwinked [by the leadership], that they kind of made this deal behind people’s backs,” Bernstein said. “If they would have put it up for a vote, Bernie would have one hands down.”