Seven Democratic presidential candidates are slated to attend the AFL-CIO forum next August.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - The AFL-CIO is set to formally kick of its presidential endorsement process with a candidate forum in Chicago next month, the nation’s largest organization of union members announced Tuesday.
Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware, Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois, and Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico are all slated to attend the August 7 forum and will face questions from a audience estimated to top over 5,000 union members.
AFL-CIO spokesman Steve Smith said all the presidential candidates, Democrats and Republicans, were invited to fill out a questionnaire - one of the factors that ultimately determined which candidates were invited to the event.
“Thousands of union members in Chicago and millions of working families around the country will hear exactly how these candidates, after eight years of anti-worker policies, plan to return the promise of the American dream to working people," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said in a statement.
Following the forum, the AFL-CIO’s executive council will meet to decide whether to formally endorse a candidate in the primary race. According to the organization’s rules, if the council decides to make an endorsement, two-thirds of the individual union’s comprising the AFL-CIO must agree on a particular candidate for it to be made official. If no agreement is reached, individual unions are free to make their own endorsements during the primary race.
The AFL-CIO represents nearly $10 million workers in 55 unions and says it mobilized “more than 13.6 million voters in 32 states” during the 2006 election cycle.
UPDATE: Former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, the one Democratic White House hopeful not invited to the event, admitted to CNN Tuesday he missed the questionnaire deadline, but says it was not sufficiently clear that the questionnaire was one of the criteria for admittance into the forum.
“It’s our mistake, but they are using our mistake to deny me an appearance before the AFL-CIO group and I had a 100% voting record for twelve years as senator and four years in the state legislature,” Gravel said. “The AFL-CIO has no memory.”
Gravel also said he will promptly submit the questionnaire and hopes to be included.
- CNN Ticker Producer Alexander Mooney