The country's largest labor union won't endorse any Democrat who has the same economic team as President Obama and won't be getting behind Hillary Rodham Clinton early in the 2016 presidential race, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said Thursday.
"If you get the same economic team, you're going to get the same results. The same results aren't good enough for working people," he said.
Mr. Trumka, who leads the AFL-CIO federation of 56 unions, with more than 12 million members, said repeatedly that the working Americans were still "hurting" amid a lethargic economic recovery.
"For most folks, it seems to be an economy of stagnation," Mr. Trumka said at a breakfast with reporters hosted by The Christian Science Monitor.
As for the 2016 race to replace Mr. Obama, Mr. Trumka said the union would withhold an endorsement until the field fills out and union leaders collectively vet all the candidates, thereby avoiding a repeat of 2008, when several unions split endorsements between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama.
"We've signed an agreement with all the unions of the AFL-CIO [that] no one will endorse until we decide that all of us are going to endorse," Mr. Trumka said told reporters.
"We will call in and question all of the candidates," he said. "One of our biggest concerns is who is the candidate's economic team, because if the present economic team doesn't change, you are going get the same results."
The AFL-CIO didn't endorse Mrs. Clinton in 2008, waiting until late in the contentious Democratic primary race to get behind Mr. Obama. Other unions split endorsements between the two.
Mr. Trumka praised the qualifications of Mrs. Clinton, who was secretary of state and a U.S. senator from New York. But he said that it was "too early" to make an endorsement.
"Hillary did an excellent job as secretary of state. I think she is very, very qualified to be president," he said. "Would I say that she is the favorite now? Yes. But I think any time anybody believes there is going to be a coronation, that's dangerous to the candidate."
He said the promise of a coronation could make a candidate complacent.
"That's not good for the candidate, because the candidate needs to be developing the grass-roots system and support across the country, and the deeper you go, the better off that candidate is," Mr. Trumka said. "And I think, quite frankly, that is precisely what [Mrs. Clinton] is going to do."
Mr. Trumka named other potential Democratic contenders for the White House, including Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, who has been aggressively laying the groundwork for a 2016 run.
Later, Mr. Trumka repeated his indictment of Mr. Obama's economic policies, urging Mrs. Clinton to chart a different course.
He said Mr. Obama also had come up short on championing pro-union policies.
"I think he's trying," Mr. Trumka said. "Is it enough? We'd like to see more."
Mr. Trumka urged Mr. Obama to take "bold" action with executive orders to ease immigration law, including a union-backed proposal to halt deportations of most of America's roughly 11 million illegal aliens.
As with other union priorities, he expressed doubt that Mr. Obama would do enough.
"He is going to do something. I hope it's bold enough to be worthwhile," Mr. Trumka said.
Mr. Obama is expected to soon announce executive actions to limit deportations. He promised to act before the end of the summer after the effort for comprehensive immigration reform stalled in Congress.
Mr. Trumka called on the president to grant legal status to all undocumented residents who would be eligible for a 13-year path to citizenship included in a Senate immigration reform bill that passed this year, which would cover most of America's illegal alien population.
"Everybody who could become a citizen under the Senate bill should be exempted [from deportation] right now," he said.
The union boss warned that if Mr. Obama's executive action only nibbles at the edges of U.S. immigration laws, it would still energize the president's conservative foes while undermining support from his liberal and Hispanic allies.
Conservatives will go "bonkers" regardless of the extent of the executive orders, he said, but bold action will "energize" the left and help elect more Democrats in the midterm elections.
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