Bernie Sanders Nabs Endorsement From L.A. Musicians Union Local

Senator Bernie Sanders - Getty - H 2020
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But other Hollywood unions, and the largest national labor organizations, remain on the sidelines.

Bernie Sanders, fresh off an energizing victory in the New Hampshire primary, was endorsed Wednesday by Local 47 of the American Federation of Musicians, the union’s Los Angeles local representing over 7,000 musicians who work in film, television and other sectors.

The nod comes a month ahead of March 3 Super Tuesday balloting in California and 15 other jurisdictions, encompassing over a third of the US population, that may help winnow what remains a highly unsettled Democratic field. It is the only Hollywood labor endorsement of a 2020 presidential candidate so far.

“Today more than ever, unions and workers are under attack by exploitative forces that are eroding our middle class. Immediate action and activism is crucial,” said AFM Local 47 president John Acosta in a statement. “Bernie Sanders is the best presidential candidate to defend musicians and all workers by protecting jobs and workers’ rights.”

The endorsement adds to a Sanders labor list that includes a thumbs-up from the American Postal Workers Union (200,000 members), National Nurses United (150,000), United Teachers Los Angeles (35,000) and various California locals of UNITE HERE and of the Communications Workers of America, as well as a host of others. His campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

In announcing the endorsement, which reflects a unanimous vote of its political action committee and elected executive board, Local 47 said the Vermont senator was “best able to champion the priorities and values of the musicians union,” because of what it cited as his commitment to protecting pensions, supporting working people, ensuring that tax credits support jobs for musicians in the U.S., and strengthening labor power throughout the nation.

Meanwhile, notwithstanding Local 47’s endorsement of Sanders, other Hollywood unions may be out of reach for any candidate, at least in the short term. The DGA, WGA West, WGA East, SAG-AFTRA, IATSE, Teamsters Local 399 and Actors Equity did not respond to an inquiry or declined to comment. Some, such as SAG-AFTRA, are avowedly nonpolitical, while others may be waiting to see how the fractious Democratic primary plays out.

And among those on the sidelines is Local 47’s own parent organization. Said AFM international president Ray Hair to THR, “We will wait until the nomination process has concluded.”

Sanders has not had a lock on labor. Former vp Joe Biden’s run, albeit now embattled, boasts significant union support, from such large national organizations as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (775,000 members), International Association of Fire Fighters (313,000) and Amalgamated Transit Union (200,000). Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s own stumbling candidacy has a number of smaller labor endorsements, while the remaining Democratic candidates appear to have none.

And, notably, the largest national unions — the National Education Association (3 million members), Service Employees International Union (1.9 million) and American Federation of Teachers (1.7 million) and others with over a million members each — have held back, as has the umbrella AFL-CIO (12.5 million members in its constituent unions), which endorsed Hilary Clinton in June 2016. That’s left Sanders to garner support from various locals,  including such strategic ones as a New Hampshire public employees union called SEA/SEIU Local 1984 and the Nevada-based Clark County Education Association, which should help Sanders in that union-strong state’s Feb. 22 caucuses.

Of course, endorsements aren’t votes (even though they do matter). President Donald Trump garnered significant rank-and-file support in key 2016 swing states despite Clinton's labor endorsements, and is looking to repeat that performance, regardless of who the unions endorse. Whether he can do so, despite racking up a strongly anti-labor record during his first term, will be a key test of the strength of his blue-collar appeal, and could determine the outcome of the election.