The Service Employees International Union announced plans today to put 750 full-time political workers in Pennsylvania and seven other battleground states this year, getting out the vote for Barack Obama and other union-supporting candidates down ballot.
SEIU political director Brandon Davis estimated the effort could knock on 3 million doors in Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Virginia and make 13 million phone calls for the candidates. The union will focus on voter registration and education (on voter ID and other matters) and election day get-out-the-vote programs.
About 100 of the workers are expected to work in Pennsylvania, focusing on the Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley regions. SEIU has 80,000 members in the state.
The 2010 Citizens United decision allowed unions (as well as corporations) to spend money on campaigns, which will allow SEIU to reach out to about three times as many voters as it did in 2008, many of them non-union. Davis claimed in a conference call with reporters that the Supreme Court's decision was a factor in the increased outreach, though, saying it was instead "a strategic decision" by the giant health care/public sector/property services union.
The union is focused on beating Mitt Romney, calling for the end to the Bush tax cuts, warning of entitlement cuts and supporting immigration reforms opposed by Republicans, so the last thing the political director seemed ready to do was acknowledge Citizens United helping him.
Organized labor's political efforts "will always be drawfed by the corporate money," Davis said. "That's not where our advantage is. Our advantage is on the ground."
The effort is similar though not exactly the same as the SuperPAC started by the AFL-CIO. The latter is focusing on Pa and four other swing states.
The SEIU's still-evolving endorsed candidates list is here. Of the dozens of candidates listed only one (a Bucks County House incumbent) is a Republican. In congressional races on this side of the state, the union has thus far endorsed Democrats Mike Doyle, Mark Critz and Missa Eaton, but not Tim Murphy challenger Larry Maggi.