But on Thursday, its 11,500-member New Hampshire affiliate broke ranks with top union brass and threw its support behind the Vermont independent.
Richard Gulla, president of the State Employees' Association/SEIU Local 1984, explained in a press release that the New Hampshire group's endorsement process proceeded separately from the international union's. A majority of the local's members backed Sanders, Gulla said, and its board of directors ratified their decision after meeting with the candidates.
“While we differ in our endorsement, we share the same values, hopes and dreams for our country,” Gulla said of the intra-union divide.
Local 1984 is New Hampshire's largest public sector labor union and its second largest overall. Its membership consists mostly of state, county and municipal workers. The Granite State plays host to the first presidential primary election in the country, scheduled for February 9.
Gulla cited Sanders' support for raising the minimum wage, protecting the collective bargaining process and standing up to Wall Street as key reasons for the local's endorsement.
"Bernie Sanders has a long history of fighting for working people," he said.
The candidate's New Hampshire state director, Julia Barnes, said, “No matter what happens inside the Beltway, today’s news shows without a doubt that the passions of working families are clearly with Bernie."