Alyssa Rosenberg is a staff correspondent at Government Executive, one of The Atlantic's sister brands, and she was on the conference call at which the Change to Win labor federation endorsed Barack Obama. She offers the following dispatch:
Anna Burger, the chair of Change to Win, said repeatedly that the federation’s unions felt that Obama was building a significant movement that would persist beyond the elections and help bring important policy changes. “He is building an election coalition that will turn into an action coalition that will restore the American dream,” she said.
The vision of that movement seemed to swamp differences on policy, even on core issues like health care, where Obama has attacked the mandates in Clinton’s proposal. “We believe that Barack Obama is absolutely determined to win health care for every man, woman and child in America. Does he have a different approach? Yes,” Burger said, emphasizing that she thought Obama would be best suited to achieve sweeping health care reform as president.
In fact, Burger seemed reluctant to draw policy distinctions between Obama and Clinton at all, saying that Change to Win appreciated Obama’s stance on the war in Iraq and on trade, but refusing to say whether she thought the federation’s members and leaders associated Clinton with NAFTA and its impacts.
But Burger clearly indicated that Change to Win thought the movement-building stakes were high enough to warrant the federation getting into the race at a point at which they thought they could be a decisive force. Change to Win has 175,000 members in Ohio and expects 110,000 of them to make it to the polls, Burger said. The federation has 60,000 members in Texas, but also has strong ties to the Latino and immigrant communities there.
Burger was blunt about what she hoped the endorsement would achieve. “We think it’s time to bring this nomination process to a close, and we think we can make a difference and get this done,” she said.
Now I'm told independently that Change to Win (unlike the AFL-CIO) doesn't really have any resources as an entity separate from whatever its composite unions bring to the table. Thus, this doesn't necessarily add much that's concrete on top of what the SEIU, UNITE-HERE, Teamsters, and UFCW endorsements already bring Obama. The main point is a PR one, and in that regard the sentiments Burger expressed about a desire to bring the nominating process to an expeditious conclusion seems to be the main point.