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Analysis: Teacher unions in Oakland and Richmond join United Teachers Los Angeles in endorsing Bernie Sanders

Mike Antonucci | February 12, 2020

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Mike Antonucci’s Union Report appears weekly at LA School Report.

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Two Bay Area teacher union locals followed the lead of United Teachers Los Angeles and endorsed Sen. Bernie Sanders for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.

The Oakland Education Association (2,605 active members) and United Teachers of Richmond (1,666 active members) issued a joint statement in support of Sanders, calling him “the candidate that will fight to bring true investments for better schools and communities.”

The national and state teacher unions are reluctant to endorse primary candidates without a clear front-runner, opening the door for local unions to go their own way. UTLA’s representative bodies endorsed Sanders in November.

Just as UTLA did when advocating for the Sanders endorsement, the two Bay Area unions were dismissive of other Democratic candidates. Their statement cited a litany of “failed policies” and claimed “longstanding Democratic Party leaders have been a part of these problems.”

The unions say the votes of their representative bodies came after “a month-long vote/survey of members.” Neither union released the results of those votes/surveys.

The restrictive nature of the endorsements suggests that certain local officers are trying to build momentum for a Sanders endorsement by the California Teachers Association. This would not only provide Sanders with a boost over the other candidates, but free up CTA funds and resources for independent expenditures on his behalf. As it stands now, these three locals are limited in what effect they can have on a statewide primary.

A recent poll by the LA Times and UC Berkeley shows Sanders with a lead in the state, and if he wins, a CTA endorsement could soon follow. But even that isn’t a guarantee of a national teachers union endorsement. Only the National Education Association and American Federation of Teachers presidents can decide which candidate to put forward for a recommendation, and they have a lot of competing pressures from other state affiliates.

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