Lee A. Saunders, the new president of the AFSCME, has made it clear the union representing 1.6 million public service workers will support President Barack Obama in 2012.
“We must work our hearts out to re-elect President Obama,” he said during AFSCME’s 40th International Convention in Los Angeles this week.
Saunders is the union’s first African American president. He was sworn in on Friday.
Despite endorsing Obama’s re-election, Saunders quickly insisted that the union was non-partisan.
“And we must hold politicians of all political stripes accountable for what they say and what they do,” he said. “Because when it comes to what affects our members and our rights, it’s not about left versus right; it’s about right versus wrong.”
“And let me be perfectly clear about this: Our union does not work for any political party; we work for justice and fairness in the workplace. If someone takes us on, it does not matter whether they are a Democrat or a Republican, conservative or liberal. We are taking them on. And they are going down.”
Republicans have sought to weaken or eliminate unions for government workers. At a Republican Governors Association conference in 2010, then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty described public workers as “over-benefited and overpaid.”
“Frankly,” he said, “the public employee unions would stick a shiv in all of us if they could.”