U.S. service employees union, with 2 million members, endorses Clinton

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 17, 2015 12:32 PM

NEW YORK(Reuters) - U.S. presidential contender Hillary Clinton on Tuesday won the endorsement of the SEIU labor union, which has about 2 million members, in her quest to win the Democratic nomination for the November 2016 election.

The Service Employees International Union adds momentum to Clinton's bid to woo labor, a key Democratic constituency, as she seeks to build a coalition within her party and avert a damaging primary fight.

SEIU includes employees in a range of jobs, including public service and healthcare.

Leaders from the union "collectively agreed that the best choice for our union was to endorse Clinton," SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry said.

Union leadership evaluated the candidates on their positions as well as "who can win in a general election," Henry said, adding that "she's (Clinton) willing to use executive authority to change the lives of working people who are working their hearts out in poverty jobs."

The SEIU has been a major force in the Fight for $15 movement, which pushes for higher wages for workers, including fast food employees.

While Clinton has indicated support for the group's efforts, she has declined to throw her weight behind a $15 federal minimum wage.

"I support a $12 national federal minimum wage," Clinton said at a Democratic debate on Saturday.

"But I do believe that is a minimum. And places like Seattle, like Los Angeles, like New York City, they can go higher," she added.

Clinton has already won the endorsement of several other major unions, such as public service employee group AFSCME, the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association.

"As President, I will be proud to stand with SEIU and fight alongside them — to defend workers' right to organize and unions' right to bargain collectively, to raise incomes for working people and the middle class, and to ensure that hardworking Americans can retire with dignity and security," Clinton said in a statement after the endorsement.

The former secretary of state remains the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

She has support from 56 percent of her party, versus 31 percent for Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, her main rival, in a five-day rolling poll by Reuters/IPSOS dated Nov. 13.

Sanders has won endorsements from National Nurses United and the American Postal Workers Union.

Labor is often a major source of volunteers and fundraising for Democrats in presidential elections.

(Reporting by Luciana Lopez; Editing by Lisa Lambert and Andrew Hay)