Calling Sen. Barack Obama a champion for working families, the top leaders of AFL-CIO unions today voted without opposition to endorse him for president of the United States, thrusting the labor federation’s largest ever grassroots mobilization effort into high gear.
“In so many ways―on jobs, health care, gas prices and the war in Iraq―our country is headed in the wrong direction,” AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said. “Barack Obama has proven from his days as an organizer, to his time in the Senate and his historic run for the presidency, that he’s leading the fight to turn around America. He’s a champion for working families who knows what it’s going to take to create an economy that works for everyone, not just Big Oil, Big Pharma, the insurance companies, the giant mortgage lenders, speculators and the very wealthy. We’re proud to stand with Sen. Obama to help our nation chart a course that will improve life for generations of working people and our children.”
In its endorsement statement, the AFL-CIO General Board cited Obama’s strong support of working families on issues such as health care reform, fair trade that will lift up workers here and around the world, retirement security and the freedom to form unions and bargain for middle-class living standards. Obama has a 98 percent voting record on working families’ issues, compared to just 16 percent for Sen. John McCain.
“Senator Barack Obama has secured the nomination of his party in a campaign that has energized millions of Americans and spoken to the hopes and dreams of people from every corner of our nation,” read the AFL-CIO General Board’s statement to endorse Obama. “His leadership can re-engage disenfranchised Americans and bring our country together.” The General Board, which includes presidents of all 56 unions in the federation as well as Executive Council members and representatives of state and local federations, trade departments and constituency groups, votes by per capita membership.
“Senator Obama has advocated a change of direction for our nation that mirrors the priorities of the labor movement,” the statement continued.
The endorsement is not only a stamp of approval; it marks the beginning of a huge, united political mobilization among working class voters. The AFL-CIO will focus on mobilizing more than 13 million union voters―including union members, families of members, retirees and members of the AFL-CIO community affiliate Working America―in 24 priority states, working to elect U.S. senators and representatives, as well as state and local candidates.
“We’ll work our hearts out for Barack Obama,” said AFSCME President and AFL-CIO Political Committee Chair Gerald McEntee. “Our program is going to be worker to worker and neighbor to neighbor. We’re ready to mobilize. We’re ready to rock and roll. This country and our people are ready for change.”
Today, the AFL-CIO also launched a new website that provides extensive information on Obama’s background, record and positions (www.MeetObama08.com).
The endorsement is the latest phase in a massive grassroots program to mobilize union voters. In early March, the AFL-CIO launched its national “McCain Revealed” campaign, which focuses on educating union voters about John McCain’s anti-worker record and plans. Since the campaign began, AFL-CIO volunteers have knocked on more than 60,000 doors and delivered 1.5 million worksite flyers on McCain’s economic record. Nearly a half-million mailers on McCain’s economic positions have been sent to union swing voters in key battlegrounds.
“We want to engage our members and all working people on the need for action on the issues that make a difference in our daily lives," said International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) President Ed Hill. “It is time to move beyond name calling and division so that our country can take positive action on the challenges we face.”
United Steelworkers President Leo W. Gerard said, “Senator Obama’s plan to revitalize American manufacturing and his commitment to make workers the top priority in any trade agreement give our members hope that his election will lead the country in a new direction that’s long overdue, and inspire us to work as never before to secure his victory.”
Elements of the AFL-CIO grassroots mobilization:
- The AFL-CIO top-tier states in 2008 are Ohio, Pennsylvania,
Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota.
- More than 250,000 volunteers will be activated and deployed.
- Through Labor Day, volunteers will go to 300,000 union voters’
homes, make more than 300,000 phone calls and distribute over 2 million
- In addition to the presidential election, the AFL-CIO is engaged
in every viable Senate race and more than 60 House races. All told, the
AFL-CIO will be engaged in more than 510 races nationwide, including
state legislative elections.
- The unions of the AFL-CIO will collectively devote more than $200
million to the 2008 election.
- The 2008 grassroots mobilization is the most sophisticated program the AFL-CIO has ever run, employing cutting-edge voter communication techniques, including micro-targeting to ensure our members are receiving the information they want on the candidates and issues.
Working families are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s elections. On Election Day, union household members will account for nearly one in four voters nationwide. The campaign in support of Sen. Obama will prove especially helpful among working class voters, which many have identified as the swing group in this election.
- In key battleground states such as Ohio, Michigan and
Pennsylvania, union household voters made up between 25 and 35 percent
of the total vote in 2006.
- In 2004, turnout among registered AFL-CIO union voters was as
much as 19 percentage points higher than turnout among nonunion voters
in key battleground states.
- Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, has
expanded to 11 states and will have more than 2.5 million members
nationwide by Labor Day. In Ohio alone, Working America has nearly
- Union household voters across all demographics consistently cast votes for pro-working family candidates. For example, in the last presidential election among AFL-CIO members, 61 percent of white voters voted for John Kerry, while 37 percent voted for George Bush. By contrast, among nonunion voters, 41 percent of white voters cast ballots for Kerry while 58 percent voted for Bush
For interviews with AFL-CIO leaders and affiliated union presidents, please contact the AFL-CIO Media Outreach department at 202-637-5018.
Contact: Steve Smith (202) 637-5018