L.A. teachers’ union claims endorsement process is ‘democratic,’ only pushes one candidate

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about labor union leaders being in no rush to endorse a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Candidates are jockeying for labor support, but unions are hesitant to weigh in. For one, it is a still crowded Democratic primary field. Second, there is a concern unions will recreate the tension and criticism they faced over backing Hillary Clinton instead of Bernie Sanders in 2016. The American Federation of Teachers has even created new endorsement policies to avoid alienating its members with unpopular endorsements, which could mean the union won’t unveil any endorsement at all.

Not all unions are keeping their cards close to their chest, though. The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union decided to “explore” an endorsement process for Bernie Sanders back in September and is now working to “engage” members on this process before it votes on backing Sanders next week.

The union is claiming this is “the most open and democratic process that UTLA has ever engaged in for an endorsement,” according to Mike Antonucci’s analysis in the LA School Report.

Except that the union will consider no other candidates.

But, Antonucci continues, it isn’t all that surprising that Sanders is UTLA’s guy, considering Sanders openly supports labor and UTLA in particular.

What is eyebrow-raising is UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl’s assessment of the national Democratic Party. Antonucci shares Caputo-Pearl’s comments from the union’s member newsletter.

“Even if we defeat Trump, the Democratic Party will not address the most important issues in education without radically changing its approach. Bill Clinton did perhaps more to start charterization than any other president. Barack Obama doubled down on that with support for charters, standardized testing, competition for scarce funds through Race to the Top, and more.”

Caputo-Pearl summarily dismissed the other two current front-runners — former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Elizabeth Warren. “Joe Biden is cut from the same cloth as Obama on education. Elizabeth Warren has 45 policy plans, but none on public education,” he wrote.

Do all UTLA’s members feel this way? Maybe, maybe not. But the union isn’t going to risk calling an endorsement vote unless it is certain they will like the results, Antonucci continues. “I think it is likely that UTLA will endorse Sanders, not because the members overwhelmingly prefer him to other candidates, but because unions don’t hold endorsement votes they think they might lose.”

No matter who unions decide to endorse, they will still be undermining the varying political ideologies of the public employees they claim to represent, which comes at a cost—losing members. Thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus v. AFSCME decision, government employees no longer have to financially support a union and its political agenda, and many are making their voice and choice heard by leaving.