Just days after formally announcing his candidacy, former Vice President Joe Biden gained the backing of a major labor union in his run for president.

The International Association of Fire Fighters announced Monday that it was throwing its weight behind Biden in the crowded Democratic field. The union’s president, Harold Schaitberger, said in a video that the union believes Biden “rises above” the 20 or so other candidates vying to take on President Donald Trump next year.

“Joe’s a lot like our firefighters,” Schaitberger said in the announcement video. “He’s a problem-solver who cares deeply about America and [who’s] committed to making our country better. He’s one of the staunchest advocates for working families. He knows that a strong middle class means a strong America.”

The quick endorsement does not come as a surprise. The IAFF has a close relationship with Biden stretching back to the 1970s. Schaitberger told HuffPost in March that he had been personally lobbying Biden to jump into the race, and that the union would be there for him if he did declare.

Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters' legislative conference in March. The union endorsed BidenBloomberg via Getty Images Joe Biden speaks at the International Association of Fire Fighters’ legislative conference in March. The union endorsed Biden on Monday.

The union did not endorse any candidate during the 2016 primary, a decision it announced after Biden made clear he would not run then. The union also declined to formally endorse a candidate in the general election, saying that the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, didn’t carry enough support among its membership.

Unions are a pillar of the Democratic base and can be influential in the party’s primaries. But with so many candidates in the 2020 field, several of the largest unions are sitting back to wait and see whether a clear front-runner and candidate for labor emerges in the coming months.

The firefighters union does not determine its candidate of choice by a member vote; as with most other unions, the group’s executive leadership decides on the endorsement and its timing.

Schaitberger previously told HuffPost that Biden’s reputation as a moderate makes him a good fit for his union, which includes many conservatives and independents.

“We really think that we need someone like Joe Biden who will take that center-progressive ― but center ― lane, and who will be the candidate who can speak to workers [in] states like Wisconsin and Michigan and Ohio and Pennsylvania, who can speak to the real working class,” Schaitberger said in March.

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