Bernie Sanders snagged the endorsement of the 200,000-member American Postal Workers Union on Thursday, giving the Vermont senator a much-needed boost in his insurgent bid to defeat Hillary Clinton, who leads the race for labor support.
On the surface, the union’s backing is hardly surprising: Sanders has been a longtime defender of the U.S. Postal Service and has used his perch in the Senate to fight cuts to mail service and block the confirmations of federal nominees who have supported privatizing the agency.
The endorsement is, however, revealing of a larger split in organized labor, driven, in part, by Clinton’s long and complicated relationship with unions. Now, as various factions of the movement weigh where to put their support in the Democratic primary, a wedge is appearing between the purists and the pragmatists.
Before Thursday’s announcement, Mark Dimondstein, president of the postal workers’ union, told me: “Myself and a lot of other people are sick of business as usual. And we interpret her history and her campaign as more business as usual. And business as usual isn’t helping the labor movement or the working class survive or thrive.”
On the other side of the debate are pragmatists who see Clinton as more electable and want to secure a seat at the table in a Democratic administration. As Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, put it: “You actually have to have a plan to win, not just have great values.”