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Why Unions Aren't Uniting Behind Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders

When it comes to presidential politics, the AFL-CIO moves slowly by design.
Bernie Sanders Leads March Against Fast Track Trade
Photographer: Win McNamee/Getty Images

In the failed fight to stop fast track, organized labor spoke—largely—with one voice. The main U.S. union federation, the AFL-CIO, announced a temporary freeze on PAC contributions, and its affiliate unions mostly complied. Unions across the industry spectrum warned Democrats against siding with Obama on trade. Some big unions were quieter than others, but none defected to shield the president. “It was a unifying moment,” says Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters.

The same can’t be said for labor’s presidential endorsement process. “Some want to wait, some want to move,” International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers President Tom Buffenbarger told Bloomberg last month. “Some are just so pissed off that they just don’t want to do anything.”