Service Employees International Union, AFL/CIO, CLC
1313 L Street NW, Washington, DC 20005
September 10, 2003
Sara Howard
TJ Michaels

A Statement from Andrew L. Stern, President of the Service Employees International Union, on the Endorsement Process

SEIU is the largest, fastest-growing union in the AFL-CIO, with 1.6 million members. In 2004, those members will be part of the largest volunteer grassroots effort by any single organization to elect a president who will stand up for working families.

Fifty thousand SEIU volunteers and over 2000 members working full-time on the campaign will make seven million phone calls, knock on 10 million doors, and distribute six million fliers to their co-workers during the 2004 election cycle.

The reason for this incredible level of participation is simple: In SEIU, the members are the heart, the members are the soul, and the members are the decision-makers of the union.

The process to consider endorsing a presidential candidate did not start this weekend.  It began over eight months ago, when we set forth our principles: The only candidates who would be considered for endorsement must have the support of our members, must be viable, must be committed to workers freedom to join a union, and must offer a written, comprehensive health care plan – including a way to pay for it.

We have attempted to maximize the information available to our members --- setting up local meetings to allow the candidates to meet with members, distributing taped interviews with the candidates discussing health care and the right to organize, sending our volunteers in New Hampshire and Iowa out to candidate events so they can ask the candidates directly: “What are you going to do about health care?”

And we have continued to try to gauge how members felt about candidates and endorsement through multiple surveys, polls, focus groups, and dozens of conversations with leaders as well as rank-and-file members.

And over the past three days, we have experienced an extraordinary moment in that process, when 1,500 of our most politically active members got a chance to hear from eight of the candidates, to meet with them in small, intimate groups, and to watch films that gave them a sense of the candidates as individuals.  It was an amazing experience for the members – and for the candidates, who were all greeted warmly and enthusiastically by 1,500 people who were thrilled to hear what they had to say about health care, workers’ rights, and other issues important to working families.

Clearly, this ongoing process has value:  the more information we give the members, and the more exposure to the candidates – the more SEIU members are able to decide who they think should become our next president.  Many of the members have come out of this conference with a much clearer idea of who they would like to support.

Many members came to this conference enthusiastically supporting Howard Dean.  And after hearing him – and the other seven candidates who attended – speak on Monday, their enthusiasm is unabated.

John Edwards, a person who a lot of members didn’t know much about, introduced himself powerfully, and moved from having almost no support to being one of the top three candidates that the members leaving this conference are interested in.

Dick Gephardt, a person who many SEIU members have always felt very passionately about, increased his support.

And the members here this week clearly rallied around Al Sharpton’s message of making sure we remain true to the core, progressive values so important to all of us.

But even though many members leave this conference with a clearer idea of which candidate they like, over 60 percent of them are still not ready for their union to make an endorsement, a sentiment shared by their fellow members across the country.

And because – and I repeat – the members are the heart, the members are the soul, and the members are the decision-makers of this union, the Executive Board will honor their recommendation.

SEIU will not endorse any presidential candidate at this time.

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