The National Education Association threw its weight behind former Vice President Joe Biden on Saturday night, handing him another big endorsement from organized labor.
Lily Eskelsen Garcia, the president of the powerful teachers union, called Biden a “tireless advocate for public education” and “the partner that students and educators need now in the White House” in a statement announcing the union’s support.
“With so much at stake in this election, educators are determined to use their voice to propel Joe Biden to the White House,” Eskelsen Garcia said.
The NEA’s board of directors backed Biden in a Saturday evening vote, the union said, choosing him over Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Biden’s chief rival for the Democratic nomination.
With more than 3 million members nationwide, the NEA is the country’s largest labor union, and its endorsement comes just days before another crucial round of primaries on Tuesday.
The union cited Biden’s engagement on education issues, including the “comprehensive plans” he released for K-12 and higher education, as the main reasons he won its endorsement.
The NEA, which endorsed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primary, has been among the most vocal critics of President Donald Trump and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whom the union has called “the least qualified secretary of education in history.”
The NEA has wielded considerable political strength over the last four years, backing teacher protests across the country as part of the nationwide movement that became known as “Red For Ed.” The movement helped more than 1,000 teachers win election to public office in 2018, the union said.
And in 2020, Trump and DeVos, who ranks among the least popular members of the Trump administration, are its biggest targets.
“Biden will fire Betsy DeVos and replace her with an education secretary who comes from a public school classroom and believes that educators must have a seat at the table when crafting education policy,” Eskelsen Garcia said in her statement.
Most of the country’s largest unions have yet to weigh in on the Democratic race, in part because many of them angered members four years ago by lining up behind Clinton early in the process. The NEA was among the unions that faced pushback from members after its early endorsement of Clinton, which came in October 2015.
Biden’s surge to the front of the race this month, though, may be starting to draw labor off the sidelines: After getting off to slow start with unions early in his campaign, Biden has picked up two major national labor endorsements and the backing of several local unions in recent weeks.
The American Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 1 million teachers, urged its members to back Biden, Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) in February. But AFT’s leadership said at the time that it could still choose to formally endorse a single candidate at some point during the primary.