Gary Cameron / Reuters

Powerful public sector union AFSCME backs Clinton, boosting campaign

Executive board approves endorsement after what the 1.6 million-member union described as a rigorous process

In a boost to her candidacy, Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton won the endorsement of the powerful labor union AFSCME, it was announced Friday.

The nod from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees marks a significant breakthrough in Clinton's efforts to woo the labor movement as she seeks to build a coalition within her party and solidify her bid for the White House.

AFSCME's 1.6 million members include public service employees in a range of jobs, including nurses and sanitation workers.

Clinton received AFSCME's endorsement in the fall of 2007 and its backing was sought by both Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders in the current race.

Earlier this month an AFSCME official told Al Jazeera the union was still deliberating over which Democratic candidate to endorse, but that membership was seeking someone who "will definitely win in November."

A vocal core of union members and labor activists support Clinton's main challenger in the primary, Sen. Bernie Sanders. Sanders supporters in the labor movement have been trying to delay union endorsements for so that their preferred candidate would have an opportunity to demonstrate his credibility as a general election contender.

Prior Clinton endorsements from labor unions have caused mild uproars among pro-Sanders rank-and-file. But AFSCME said in a Friday statement that its endorsement of Clinton was in line with what the majority of its members desired.

“What we heard throughout our endorsement process is that AFSCME members want a candidate who is committed to fixing our out-of-balance economy and raising incomes for hardworking people who are still struggling to make ends meet," said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. "Members want a candidate who will make it easier instead of harder to join together in strong unions and stand together for wages and benefits that can sustain our families."

AFSCME said its International Executive Board made the decision to endorse Clinton after polling its membership over the course of six months.

Al Jazeera and wire services

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