Georgia 2018: Prominent labor group endorses Abrams after 'fervent' meeting

Former House minority leader Stacey Abrams. AJC file

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Former House minority leader Stacey Abrams. AJC file

Democrat Stacey Abrams earned the endorsement Friday of the AFL-CIO, one of the state's most influential labor groups, giving some additional union firepower to her campaign to become the nation's first black female governor.

The endorsement came after what several participants from both camps described as a testy meeting Thursday night in St. Simons when at least two labor leaders spoke out against Abrams, who faces former state Rep. Stacey Evans in the May primary.

A union screening committee recommended Abrams’ endorsement earlier this year, but the prospect of supporting a candidate this early in a competitive primary concerned some in the crowd of about 200 labor organizers at the AFL-CIO's convention.

An initial vote was inconclusive, but Abrams easily crossed the two-thirds threshold she needed to secure a formal endorsement in a roll-call vote. In that vote, union leaders who controlled troves of delegates lined up behind Abrams.

An Abrams union supporter, who requested anonymity because she wasn’t authorized to speak publicly, put it this way: “You’ve got union people. We stand up for what we believe in. And sometimes we get a little fervent about what we believe in.”

Both campaigns have vigorously pursued union endorsements, mindful that they can help get-out-the-vote efforts in the runup to next year's election.  For Abrams, the support of a group of largely working-class white men also helps her present a more diverse coalition.

Abrams said in a statement she was proud to have led efforts “to support unions and working families” as the top Democrat in the Georgia House, and that she would fight to protect collective bargaining rights and the power to form unions in Georgia.

Charlie Flemming, the head of the Georgia AFL-CIO, praised Abrams in a statement for her work “to deliver for working Georgians who are often struggling to make ends meet.”