Union workers once opposed Klobuchar endorsement over ‘hostile’ treatment of staff

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When then-Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar was running for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2006, members of the local public employees’ union that represented the lawyers on her staff wrote to their state union headquarters asking it to withhold its endorsement from the Democrat.

On behalf of AFSCME Local 2938, chapter President James Appleby penned a letter to the AFSCME state headquarters in South St. Paul, Minn. making the case that Klobuchar was “wholly undeserving of AFSCME’s endorsement.” The document, obtained by Fox News but previously reported by HuffPost, takes on new relevance as Klobuchar seeks the Democratic nomination for president and the primary campaign moves to union-heavy Nevada.

“Throughout her tenure as Hennepin County Attorney, Amy Klobuchar has demonstrated her disdain for the very employees that have placed her in the position to run for the office she now seeks,” the letter reads. “She has denigrated these lawyers both publicly and privately. She has refused to support their efforts to obtain fair wage adjustment. She has taken credit for the hard work of her employees. She has severely damaged the morale of the office.”

The 2006 letter alleged: “As County Attorney, Amy Klobuchar has created a hostile work environment.”

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., waves as she arrives to speak to the Scott County Iowa Democrats Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Bettendorf, Iowa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., waves as she arrives to speak to the Scott County Iowa Democrats Saturday, Jan. 25, 2020, in Bettendorf, Iowa. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

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The letter goes on to say that Klobuchar “assumes” she will get the union’s endorsement and that the AFSCME’s dislike of Republicans would allow her to sail into office without a “fair review” of how she treats her employees.

“This must not happen,” it says. “AFSCME must hold Amy Klobuchar responsible for her shameful treatment of her employees.”

Other reports have detailed Klobuchar’s alleged mistreatment of her staff. Buzzfeed reported in early 2019 that Klobuchar’s Senate office was, “a workplace controlled by fear, anger, and shame,” detailing one incident in which Klobuchar threw a binder and hit a staffer. HuffPost reported in 2019 that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid met privately with Klobuchar to admonish her about her treatment of her employees.

Among Klobuchar’s offenses as Hennepin County Attorney, the Local 2938 said she prioritized hiring candidates who supported aims for higher office, failed to support her employees’ requests for higher wages and took credit for her attorneys’ work even in cases she was not actively involved in.

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The Klobuchar campaign did not respond to a request for comment on this report, though it has repeatedly said that the senator “loves her staff,” in response to previous stories on the topic, including HuffPost’s.

Klobuchar heads into the Nevada caucuses with some momentum following her third-place showing in the New Hampshire primary, as she aims to stand out among the more establishment Democrats running while Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, has united much of the party’s progressive base around his democratic socialist message.

Klobuchar will likely need backing from a significant amount of union members to do well in the Nevada caucuses. The state’s most powerful union, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, has over 60,000 members and has announced that it plans to “drive voter turnout” for the Nevada caucuses. The union says that between its members and their families, it counts 91,000 registered voters in Nevada and calls itself “the strongest political force in the state.”

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Klobuchar has been a reliable vote for union supporters, however, with the AFL-CIO giving her a 95 percent lifetime score, and a 100 percent score for 2018, the most recent year the union’s scorecard is available. The average Senate Democrat has just an 88 percent score from the AFL-CIO.

Reflecting the importance of the union in Nevada Democratic politics, former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg attacked Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on the tension between his campaign and the Culinary Union over the democratic socialist’s ‘Medicare-for-All” proposal. Buttigieg told Sanders, “As a matter of fact, you are the one who is at war with the Culinary Union right here in Las Vegas.”



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