One of the state’s most influential labor unions backed Democrat Raphael Warnock’s campaign for U.S. Senate on Thursday, giving the reverend support from another important party constituency.
The Georgia American Federation of Labor unveiled its endorsement for Warnock at a press conference that touted his pledge to end “Right to Work” status in Georgia and push for expanded Medicaid.
“Georgia deserves a senator who understands that it is a contradiction to call workers essential but refuse to pay them an essential wage, provide for them essential benefits,” he said outside an Atlanta union. “There are too many politicians working to promote corporate interests than ordinary families.”
It’s the latest in a string of endorsements for Warnock, the pastor of Atlanta’s Ebenezer Baptist Church and a first-time candidate in a messy field seeking to oust U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Warnock has won support from Stacey Abrams, more than half of U.S. Senate Democrats and every major Georgia party figure who has taken sides. And his promise to “bring pro-worker values to Washington” helped secure the AFL-CIO’s favor.
Still, he faces challenges trying to consolidate Democrats behind his bid. His chief Democratic opponent is Matt Lieberman, an Atlanta educator who is the son of former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman. Some recent polls show Warnock struggling to distance himself from Lieberman, who has defied calls from party leaders to abandon the race.
Loeffler, meanwhile, is facing a formidable challenge from U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, a four-term congressman who paints himself as the authentic conservative in the race.
Those four candidates – along with another 17 lesser-known contenders – are all on the same November special election ballot. If no candidates get a majority of the vote, the two top finishers face a January runoff.
Despite the declining membership and clout of labor unions in Georgia, they remain central to Democratic politics.
The AFL-CIO’s backing on Thursday gives Warnock a network of grassroots organizers – the union boasts roughly 250,000 members and retirees in Georgia – to captain get-out-the-vote efforts.
And the union, along with other labor organizations, is an important source of financing for Democratic campaigns and liberal efforts in Georgia.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution review of campaign finance records showed the Democratic Party of Georgia received about $2.4 million during the 2018 election cycle from more than 60 union contributions.
In a statement, union organizers praised Warnock’s work to “tilt the playing field back to the side of real people.”
“Reverend Raphael Warnock has made it clear that he is a strong supporter of organized labor,” said Charlie Flemming, the president of the state chapter of the Georgia AFL-CIO. “And we are excited to work to elect him as the next Senator from Georgia and push back against the anti-worker agenda that threatens our nation and families.”