Labor unions pivot toward midterm elections with jobs campaign

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 12, 2010; 9:42 AM

The nation's largest labor federation is kicking off its political program for the fall midterm elections Monday by canvassing in 23 states for Democratic congressional and gubernatorial candidates who support policies that help working families.

The AFL-CIO, which represents about 11 million workers, is beginning what organizers are billing as an "unprecedented" grass-roots field campaign by focusing on jobs. Labor organizers will begin two weeks of one-on-one conversations with voters in such midterm battlegrounds as Nevada and California, where Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) face tough reelection challenges.

"If politicians are fighting for working families, then we will work our hearts out for them," AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a statement. "If they aren't delivering and think they can take our support for granted, then they may be awfully lonely come November."

With the AFL-CIO's campaign kickoff, the labor movement is pivoting toward the general election campaign after spending months focused on divisive Democratic primaries and special elections. This spring, labor unions and other progressive groups spent more than $10 million in Arkansas to oust Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D), but she prevailed in a June runoff against Lt. Gov. Bill Halter (D).

Unions are now turning their attention to the November elections, where they will be one of the more powerful allies of Democrats struggling to maintain their congressional majorities. But the labor movement is not campaigning for all of the party's candidates. Leaders have said they will not work on behalf of Democrats who may have voted against health-care reform or the economic recovery and jobs bills that have been priorities for the movement.

"If politicians want the support of working families in November, they need to create good jobs here in America now," Trumka said.

In this first wave of political activity, the AFL-CIO is canvassing for Senate, House and gubernatorial candidates in the following states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.

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