SAN DIEGO – As the executive council of the nation’s 10 million member AFL-CIO meets here March 4 – 6 to kick off its biggest ever election drive, the federation is not ready to make an endorsement in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Union leaders gathering here, however, want the public to know that this in no way will prevent them from jumping full force into the presidential race before the November general election.

The delay in an endorsement in the contest between Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, they say, results from several factors.

First, some of the unions affiliated with the federation support Clinton and others back Obama. Other member unions backed former Sen. John Edwards who is no longer in the race.

In order to make an endorsement federation rules require that unions representing 67 percent of the AFL-CIO’s 10 million members must back that candidate.

Despite numerous labor endorsements for both Obama and Clinton, most of the 56 national unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO have not made a primary endorsement.

“We respect the views of our affiliated unions,” AFL-CIO president John Sweeney said, March 3, “so we have not endorsed.”

Sweeney said, however, that the federation will make an endorsement when we are certain it will lead to the “broadest general election mobilization we have ever made.”

Denise Mitchell, press spokesperson for the federation, said, “We run the biggest political program in the country among our 19.5 million AFL-CIO working family voters.

“Our overriding focus is on Nov. 4,” Mitchell said, “and making sure it takes us in a different direction, not a McCain direction.”

Sweeney said that the federation is “building grass roots committees designed to expose and protest the economic plans of John McCain.”

AFL-CIO Political Committee Director Karen Ackerman said, “In addition to the presidential race, we will campaign in every viable Senate race and for over 70 House seats.” She said that the federation will be involved in over 525 races across the country, counting Senate, House, state legislative, gubernatorial races and ballot initiatives.

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