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Divvying Up the Union Vote

When it comes to securing the union vote, presidential candidate John Edwards appears to be the winner. He has secured endorsements from United Steelworkers, United Mine Workers, Transportation Workers Union of America, and the Carpenters and Joiners Union. He is also considered the front-runner for the three large Change to Win unions, SEIU, UNITE-HERE and the Teamsters. Hillary has secured the endorsement of the Machinists Union and United Transportation Union (UTU), she is also the front-runner for an endorsement from AFSCME. Chris Dodd has secured the Firefighters Union.

UMWA President Cecil Roberts said, “We need a president who cares about ordinary working people instead of the richest Americans and the big multinational corporations. We believe John Edwards is that person, and we will work as hard as we know how on his behalf anywhere and everywhere we can.” The environmental blog Gristmill looked at Edwards’s environmental policy to see if it was incompatible with his endorsement by the miners’ union. Edward’s was the first candidate to put forth a comprehensive climate change plan and the only candidate to make climate change a priority. As Grist notes, “we've heard standard platitudes from Hillary Clinton, and a series of confused and incrementalist proposals from Barack Obama.” It might seen as if the Miner’s interests would be better served by Obama's plan to subsidize both sequestration and liquid coal research and Clinton's coal-friendly history in the Senate.

Yet it is Edwards the United Mine Workers chose to endorse. Grist asked Edward’s campaign if supporting coal miners is at odds with supporting climate change. The Edwards campaign responded, “John Edwards is gratified by the support he has received by mineworkers, who have helped give him the largest bloc of union support -- combined, more than 1.8 million members and retirees -- among any of the presidential candidates so far. John Edwards remains committed to his ambitious goal of ending global warming by reducing greenhouse gas pollution by 80 percent by 2050. The reality is that coal is going to be an important source of American energy for decades to come, and we need to find a way to use it without heating the planet. He has called for a moratorium on new coal plants unless they are compatible with efforts to capture and permanently store their emissions underground. He has also proposed a historic, $1 billion a year effort to develop and implement feasible technology to do this as quickly as possible.”

Edwards has found a way to make his environmentalist policies compatible with his pro-labor and populist policies. As unions mobilize their members, they could be a decisive voice in the campaign. The AFL-CIO in engaged in a Working Families Vote 2008 campaign, which is will mobilize millions of union members across the nation to elect a worker-friendly Congress and president.

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