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Kamala Harris wins farmworker endorsement; Bernie Sanders lands support from teachers and nurses unions

Melanie Mason and Melissa Gomez, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Political News

LOS ANGELES -- California's high-profile farmworkers union endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris for president on Saturday, soon after her rival Sen. Bernie Sanders won the support of the national nurses labor group and Los Angeles teachers.

The endorsements coincide with this weekend's California Democratic Party gathering in Long Beach, where Harris, Sanders and 10 other primary contenders are courting activists and party leaders.

For Harris, of California, the United Farm Workers' backing gives a symbolic boost to her flagging campaign. The union rose to national prominence under its founder, Cesar Chavez, who led national grape boycotts in the 1960s. Its membership has dwindled in recent decades to about 8,700 workers.

"She has been a leader in equal treatment and protection," said Teresa Romero, the union's president, in praising the senator's work on immigration.

Harris' campaign has multiple ties to the union. Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the group with Chavez, endorsed the California senator in February, and Chavez's granddaughter, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, is a senior adviser on Harris' campaign.

Labor unions have been wary about making endorsements after their early backing of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election caused rifts in some major unions between leadership and the rank and file. Several that have picked a candidate this year are siding with Sanders.

On Thursday, United Teachers Los Angeles, the second-largest teacher's union in the U.S., with roughly 34,000 members, threw its support behind the Vermont senator.

"We need an unapologetic, long-standing ally of progressive policies to make public education a priority in the White House," said UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. "Critically, like UTLA, Sen. Sanders believes in building a national movement for real, lasting change."

 

On Friday, Sanders joined representatives from the National Nurses United local office in Oakland to officially accept their endorsement. The union has more than 150,000 members nationwide.

"He has done more than any other elected official to build the 'Medicare for all' movement," said Jean Ross, co-president of the union. "We know healthcare is a human right, and Bernie is the one to fight with us to make that happen."

When it was his turn to speak, Sanders came to the lectern as the crowd of nurses chanted his name.

"You are the backbone of the American healthcare system. You do fantastic and compassionate work," he told them. "I am increasingly confident that with your support, we're going to win here in California."

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