: By BERRY CRAIG
Ralph Nader’s recent Huffington Post column reminded me of the old saying, “With friends like you, who needs enemies.”
Nader’s narcissistic presidential bid in 2000 helped put George W. Bush in the White House.
Now Nader is providing grist for the union-haters’ propaganda mill by writing that “long-entrenched, affluent big union leaders” who support Hillary Clinton for president are trying to lord it over small unions who Feel the Bern.
Sixteen years ago, Nader, now a Bernie Sanders fan, ran for president because he said there was little or no difference between Vice President Al Gore, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic hopeful, and Republican candidate George W. Bush, the union-busting governor of “right to work” Texas.
In his HP column, Nader trotted a claim often heard from union-busters: that union leaders don’t represent the rank-and file.
“These large unions came out for Clinton in late 2015 and early 2016 before they sensed the growing rank and file workers’ preference for the lifetime advocate for workers and union backer, Bernie Sanders,” Nader charged.
He based a big part of his column on an AFL-CIO executive council meeting at AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington in late February.
“According to insiders, tempers flared when smaller unions challenged the Hillary-endorsing big unions such as AFSCME (public employees), the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association, the Service Employees (SEIU) and the Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW),” he wrote.
Nader added, “Listening to the nurses union head speak out for Sanders’ strong pro-labor history, Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME, interrupted her, exclaiming: ‘I will not allow you to do a commercial for Sanders.’ She retorted, ‘You mean for the only candidate who has a 100% labor record?’
“A union leader of postal workers charged the unions backing Hillary as being ‘completely out of touch with their workers.’ AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka then cut off their microphones.”
Admittedly, the rules of straight news reporting—notably giving both sides of a story—don’t apply to an opinion column. But this old reporter wonders why the supposedly pro-union Nader, at least out of a basic sense of fairness, didn’t let the parties involved in the alleged dustup give their side of the story.
If he did contact any of them, he didn’t say so in his column. As it is, Nader’s presentation of hearsay as fact amounts to the kind of union-bashing common to Fox News and right-wing talk radio.
“Few union leaders allow [italics mine] a worker referendum to make the endorsement decisions,” Nader also scolded.
It’s the other way around. Members allow union officials to do what they do. Every official in a union from a shop steward to an international president is elected. So if members of a union want a referendum, they can vote one in through their elected representatives.
Since Nader cited my union, here’s how the AFT arrived at endorsing Clinton:
“The AFT sent all candidates (both Democratic and Republican) a candidate questionnaire and invited those who completed the questionnaire to speak before the AFT’s executive council. No Republican candidate completed a candidate questionnaire.
“The AFT executive council, comprised of elected [italics mine] vice presidents and the AFT officers, met with and interviewed Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders and analyzed their position on the key issues.
“Most important, the AFT asked its members directly about the issues that matter to them and their opinions of the candidates through two polls, including a survey that reached out to more than 1 million AFT households; the ‘You Decide 2016’ online forum; emailing e-activists to get member responses on the issues of importance to them; conducting multiple telephone town hall meetings; and having rank-and-file members ask questions directly of the presidential candidates during the June  executive council meeting.
“Additionally, the AFT commissioned a scientific survey of members by Hart Research Associates. The results of the survey provide a clear picture of where AFT members stand.
“First, by an approximately 3-to-1 margin, AFT members prefer that a Democratic candidate win the presidential election over a Republican.
“79 percent of Democratic voters support the AFT making a recommendation in the primary.
“Among those voters, Hillary Clinton is preferred by members by a margin of more than 3-to-1 over her nearest Democratic competitor.
“Furthermore, Hillary Clinton holds a better than 11-to-1 advantage as the ‘Democrat with the best chance to defeat the Republican candidate.’”
I prefer Sanders to Clinton, as do more than a few of my AFT brothers and sisters. But majority rules.
Sanders has made it clear he’ll back Clinton if wins the nomination. (So will I.)
“We cannot afford an America to have Donald Trump or Cruz or any of them be our next president,” Tad Devine, a senior Sanders campaign advisor, recently told MSBC’s Andrea Mitchell.
He explained of his candidate, “The reason he ran as a Democrat was he understood being outside this process could be like what Ralph Nader did in 2000, elect a Republican president, and he’s not going to be a part of that.”