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labor Autoworker Union Endorsement Could Come Too Late To Influence Michigan Primary

Senator Bernie Sanders visits United Automobile Workers Local 600 in Dearborn, Michigan. The problem is that the union won't endorse any candidate until after the Michigan primary. AFSCME which has 60,000 to 65,000 in Michigan endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton will be campaigning for her. Other unions will be campaigning for both candidates.

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LANSING, MI -- Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders visited United Auto Workers Local 600 in Dearborn this week, but it's fully possible the union won't endorse a candidate until well after Michigan's March 8 primary.

"We have made no endorsements. Our regions are going through their internal processes which are ongoing," said UAW international spokesperson Brian Rothenberg.

In 2008, the UAW international executive board endorsed now-President Barack Obama in June, well after Michigan's January primary. President Barack Obama ran unopposed in Michigan's 2012 Democratic primary.

Where it does come into play ,the UAW endorsement can be powerful, said UAW Local 6000 legislative liaison Ray Holman.

"I think that the UAW is one of the most important and significant unions in the world and its home is right here in Michigan. So of course any endorsement from the UAW carries a lot of weight," Holman said.

Typically unions decide who they're supporting for president on the national or international level, and their state and local members mobilize for that person.

And the union boost can be significant. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Michigan had 585,000 union members in 2014. The Michigan AFL-CIO, a federation of union groups, boasts 1 million active and retired union members across the state.

That amounts to about 13 percent of the state's voting age population, which according to the census bureau totaled 7.69 million in 2014.

In 2008, the AFL-CIO endorsed Barack Obama in June, well after Michigan's primary. In 2012 the AFL-CIO endorsed him on March 13, also well after Michigan's Feb. 28 primary.

But some major unions have already handed down endorsements. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees endorsed Hillary Clinton in October.

AFSCME members "want the candidate who will be the most effective champion for working families, and who will be able to deliver a victory in this critically important election. AFSCME members believe that candidate is Hillary Clinton," said AFSCME President Lee Saunders in a statement.

AFSCME has between 60,000 and 65,000 members in the state, said Michigan AFSCME Council 25 legislative liaison Nick Ciaramitaro.

Clinton has also garnered endorsements from unions with big Michigan presences including the American Federation of Teachers, the National Education Association and the SEIU, according to information provided by her campaign. The Sanders campaign, meanwhile, has gathered endorsements from National Nurses United, Communications Workers of America and American Postal Workers Union.

Emily Lawler is a Capitol reporter on MLive's statewide Impact Team. You can reach her at elawler@mlive.com, subscribe to her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter: @emilyjanelawler.