AFSCME Forum in the News

Edited from The Nevada Current: "Democrats woo labor in Las Vegas" by Michael Lyle 

During a packed forum put on by the American Federation of State, Municipal, City Employees in Las Vegas Saturday, 19 Democratic presidential candidates promised support for collective bargaining while doubling down on their positions on immigration and health care. 

Earlier in the week, the candidates sparred over health care at the two-night, CNN presidential debate. Most candidates took time to revisit the issue Saturday. Vice President Joe Biden stressed the importance of building upon the Affordable Care Act. “I’m against any Democrat who wants to get rid of Obamacare,” he said. 

Sen. Elizabeth Warren and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders made their case for Medicare For All. Warren, who was asked if the proposal would hurt union workers who like their current plans, said unions would be at the table for the discussion about how it would be implemented. “The first part of the transition, as I see, it is the unions are at the table,” she said. “Nobody does anything without working people well represented.”

AFSCME president Lee Saunders said this is one of several events that will assist the organization and its 1.4 million members decide who it will endorse. “In the past, AFSCME has kind of jumped out there pretty quickly and endorsed a candidate,” he said. “We’re going to slow it down this time. We’ve got a lot of friends in the race. We want to hear what they have to say. We want to hear them speak about the importance of unions and how they want to resolve the problems with working families.”

Among the many union workers who attended the event trying to learn about how candidates plan to take on wage issues, strengthen unions and improve the quality of life for Americans was 55-year-old Alonzo Thornton, a registered psychiatric nurse from Las Vegas.

He, for one, was glad the candidates continued their health care discussions from the debate since he wanted more information on how each proposal worked. Though some are still vague, he said he learned more at the event.

“I’m trying to get a handle on the candidates, and I kind of did,” he said. “They answered a lot of questions I had, especially about health care and student debt. I’m a big policy guy. I want to hear specifics.”

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