Service employees union to boost efforts for Obama

AP News
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Posted: Nov 16, 2011 1:45 PM
Service employees union to boost efforts for Obama

The Service Employees International Union endorsed President Barack Obama's re-election bid on Wednesday, saying it would deploy its formidable political machine earlier and on a wider scale than it did four years ago.

SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said the union plans to reach out to all 2.1 million members by Labor Day and focus on getting more Hispanic and black voters to the polls.

"We're trying to do it on a scale that we've never done before," she said.

The politically powerful union is the latest labor organization to jump in with an early endorsement of the president, following the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the National Education Association. It could signal even broader campaign spending by labor groups, which poured about $400 million to help elect Obama in 2008.

The SEIU is starting early, in part, because of reports that some Obama supporters are less enthusiastic than they were four years ago, Henry said. But while some union leaders have expressed disappointment with Obama's commitment to create jobs and willingness to back the union agenda, the SEIU has remained a steadfast supporter.

One of Obama's earliest backers in 2008, the SEIU spent about $60 million to help him win the presidential race. That led the union to become an influential voice in forming administration policy, particularly on Obama's health care overhaul plan. Former SEIU president Andy Stern has been one of the most frequent White House guests and is a member of Obama's debt commission.

Obama's campaign manager, Jim Messina, welcomed the endorsement, saying the SEIU and Obama "share many common goals," including the right to collective bargaining, better access to affordable health care and keeping workplaces safe.