By Elaine Magliaro
Dave Jamieson (Huffington Post) reported this morning that Larry Cohen, the longtime leader of one of the country’s most powerful labor unions, is joining the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). According to Jamieson, Cohen said that Hillary Clinton, the presumed frontrunner, “made it an easy call.”
Cohen, the outgoing president of the Communications Workers of America, told The Huffington Post he plans to serve as an unpaid volunteer stumping for Sanders. Cohen said that one of the main factors in his decision “was Clinton’s equivocation on granting President Barack Obama so-called fast-track authority on his mammoth trade deal.”
Cohen was quoted as saying, “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.” He continued, “There was a million ways she could have done it. … Why was she silent on this?”
Daily Kos said that the Communications Workers of America (CWA), an AFL-CIO affiliate, is—by far and away–the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S. It reportedly has well over 600,000 members.
Labor unions, environmental groups and most Democrats rallied against giving Obama fast-track authority on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. TPP, as it’s known, is a multinational trade pact that the White House and Republicans say will boost trade between the U.S. and 11 Pacific Rim countries. Progressive groups worry it will send more jobs overseas, worsen income inequality and include weak protections for workers in developing countries. The approval of fast track last week prevents Congress from amending or filibustering the deal that the White House is negotiating.
TPP has put Clinton, Obama’s former secretary of state, in an uncomfortable position with progressives. Though she once referred to TPP as a possible “gold standard” as a trade deal, she has avoided staking out a firm position on the trade pact as a candidate and hesitated on the question of fast track. In an interview in June, she said she would “probably not” grant fast track, “because that’s a process vote, and I don’t want to say that’s the same as TPP.”
Although Bernie Sanders is considered a long shot for the presidency, Cohen said that “Clinton’s handling of the trade issue helped clarify why he wanted to get behind Sanders. The Vermont Senator has been one of the most vocal critics of giving Obama fast-track trade authority.
Cohen said, “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.”