AFSCME endorses Obama

The union had backed Hillary Clinton, and its head had previously expressed doubts about Barack Obama's chances for victory.

Published June 19, 2008 10:00PM (EDT)

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees has just announced its endorsement of Barack Obama. That a union -- especially a union of government employees -- would endorse the presumptive Democratic nominee at this point is no surprise. But the endorsement is interesting considering the posture of AFSCME and its head, Gerald McEntee, earlier this year.

AFSCME, which is the largest union within the AFL-CIO, had endorsed Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, and had worked hard on her behalf. And, as recently as late May, McEntee had been skeptical about Obama's electability. In an interview with the Washington Post published May 21, McEntee asked, "Are we going to pick a candidate that will literally walk almost lame into the Democratic National Convention?" and said, "I think he has a problem with the blue-collar worker and relating to that worker." He did say that he thinks Obama can win, but he was skeptical and said there were certain things Obama would have to do in order to win the presidency.

Today, the Post reports, "McEntee said that he and other AFSCME officials had changed their views of the candidate after extensive meetings with his staff and with Obama himself in Washington yesterday and today."

"We have changed positions [on Obama]," McEntee said today. "He's more sure-footed. We fought like hell for Hillary, no question about that, and at times it was tough on the campaign trail, but now we're prepared and ready" to campaign for Obama.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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