On May 3, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten held a telephone town hall for its members to discuss whether the union would endorse of President Joe Biden’s recently announced re-election bid. Not content to leave the decision up to AFT’s dues-payers, however, she couldn’t resist opining in the event’s email invitation that, “(N)o modern president has embraced labor more or done more for working families than Joe Biden.”
Weingarten began the call with a slew of criticisms about the recent House Select Subcommittee hearing on the Coronavirus Pandemic, during which GOP members grilled her relentlessly. Weingarten compared the hearing to the Cold War era McCarthy Committee, assuring her members, “(AFT) tried to help kids in every way we could,” and that school closures were President Trump’s fault for refusing to provide safety guidelines to reopen schools.
As focus shifted to Biden’s recent campaign announcement, Weingarten was almost giddy at the prospect: “I know, and I know you know that Joe Biden has been the most pro-union president we’ve ever had,” she gushed, brushing aside concerns about his age or mental capacity. “He’s as vibrant a person at his age as most of us are in our 50s and 60s.”
Weingarten praised the president for “keeping us out of a recession,” ignoring a recent survey by the National Association for Business Economics showing that 58 percent of economists believe a recession will happen sometime this year.
Finally, Weingarten announced that, in an unprecedented move, the labor movement will issue its collective endorsement to Biden in May or June.
Again, note that AFT members weren’t asked. They were told.
Weingarten acknowledged that typically AFT’s political endorsements must be approved by the organization’s executive council. However, the 2024 presidential election poses a unique circumstance, as Biden “has to win this election.”
The details of Weingarten’s promised collective endorsement are far from clear. A number of major unions — including the National Education Association, Service Employees International Union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, to name a few — have already publicly endorsed Biden’s 2024 bid, while others like the United Auto Workers are playing coy.
During a question-and-answer session, most AFT members invited to speak reacted favorably to the likely possibility of a Biden endorsement. One member from Los Angeles, however, called President Biden an “unmitigated disaster” who is no more pro-union than Presidents Truman or FDR.
Weingarten’s response was brief and dismissive. “I really appreciate your opinion,” she said. “FDR was not a good president for public service employees. He did not think that public service employees should be unionized.”
Weingarten concluded, “We’ve never done anything as a labor movement, together. It will send a message that all of us, from builders, to teachers, to communication workers, want to do this. This is a real turning point in our country.”
Polling data shows that 43 percent of union members are Republicans. In the 2020 presidential election, 40 percent of the union vote went to Donald Trump. In the AFT town hall, Weingarten acknowledged that over 25 percent of AFT members are Republican but continued to refer to the party as “extremist.”
A labor movement-wide endorsement of Joe Biden would ignore these members and further solidify the left-leaning bias of labor unions across America.