"There is no doubt that President Obama's heart is in the right place," said John Gage, president of the American Federation of Government Employees in a letter the union mailed to its members earlier this month. A plurality of AFGE members are registered Republicans.
"There is no doubt he occasionally disappointed and frustrated us," he said in the same letter, "but this election is not about our expectations. It is a choice between two different futures."
Gage said his union gave careful consideration to making no endorsement in the presidential race but decided to follow the advice of one of its "wise local presidents" who said, "If AFGE failed to endorse, it would bring the wrong message to members: It doesn't really matter who is president. And of course it does matter. It matters profoundly: For our job security, our pay, our retirement benefits, and the very nature of our proud work for America."
Gage said that for the first time since the 1950s, a president, Obama, "implemented an insourcing plan" to bring jobs "that should have been in the federal sector back into the federal sector. Romney would turn them over to the states, local governments or private industry - which in turn would label workers as independent contractors without Social Security, Medicare, workers comp or labor law protection."
Most unions never even considered the idea of remaining neutral in the presidential race, citing a host of major differences between Obama and Romney.
One of the biggest of these is the successful effort by the president to save GM and Chrysler. The two auto giants received federal loan guarantees and workers took cuts in pay and pension plans, keeping the companies alive. GM is again the world's largest auto company.
Counting automobiles and supplies, including everything from rubber to steel parts, saving the Detroit-based auto industry saves one out of 20 jobs in the United States.
Unions also back Obama because they see the president as committed to ending corporate outsourcing of jobs. and as committed to the idea of government-backed job creation efforts.
"If Romney believed in anything other than outsourcing, he'd support the Bring the Jobs Home Act," said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka just before Republicans in the Senate killed the bill last week.
"Companies like Bain (the firm Romney founded) are about wealth creation or insiders and job destruction for workers" said Communications Workers president Larry Cohen. In a recent letter to his members he cited 21 firms that Bain bought, cut jobs from or closed and then sold for profit during the years Romney was CEO.
"Romney's support for vouchers - taxpayer dollars for private schools - threatens the existence of public education and therefore is by far the most dangerous of all education policies," reads a New York United Federation of Teachers ad currently running in that state's newspapers.
Photo: Obama and Gage. AFGE // CC 2.0