WASHINGTON - The Service Employees became the third big union - and the second within Change To Win - to endorse Democratic President Barack Obama for re-election, when its executive board voted to do so on Nov. 16.
The vote was overwhelming, but totals were unavailable, an SEIU spokesman said. Union President Mary Kay Henry was enthusiastic. In an email to members, she not only praised Obama for standing up to anti-worker forces, but included links for members to send $10 in voluntarily to the union's campaign finance committee.
The endorsement was bottom up, the spokesman added. He said locals started calling the international office months ago, seeking comparisons between Obama and stands by several of the Republican hopefuls now campaigning nationwide.
The locals said members were pro-Obama but wanted more compare-and-contrast data. Once they got it, they relayed their own pro-Obama stands to the board.
SEIU's endorsement, after that of the independent National Education Association and the United Food and Commercial Workers, means three unions with self-estimated membership totals that, combined, top six million workers now back the president. UFCW is also a Change To Win union.
"President Obama is the only candidate for president who shares our vision of America as a land of opportunity for everyone," Henry said on the union's blog in announcing the endorsement. "We need a leader willing to fight for the needs of the 99 percent, and stand with hard-working families to say that the world's wealthiest corporations must pay their fair share.
"Our economy and democracy have been taken over by the wealthiest one percent," she continued. "These bankers and CEOs use their wealth and excessive political influence to treat our state and federal governments like their personal cash drawer - spending lavishly on elections and then pressuring legislators to give them even more instead of creating jobs. It shows in the results.
"Just last month, congressional supporters of the one percent blocked President Obama's latest job proposals. They claimed we couldn't afford to invest in creating good jobs in the U.S. and then suggested another round of tax cuts for wealthy corporations and the one percent. I have a word for that: Ridiculous.
"We know what's really important. We know that after a decade of tax breaks for the rich and out-of-control gambling on Wall Street, things have gotten much harder for working Americans. We know that if these problems aren't taken care of now, the next generation will have it even worse," she said.
Obama knows that, too, and "is looking to turn things around, but he needs support from all of us to be heard over his wealthy opponents, who seem to believe that the only thing wrong with the economy is that they have to share it.
"From now until Election Day we need to dedicate ourselves to the goal of returning President Obama to the White House so he can keep fighting for more jobs and less nonsense. We will fight shoulder to shoulder alongside working families across this nation. We will show the one percent they aren't the only ones willing to fight for America's future," Henry vowed in conclusion.
Mark Gruenberg wrote this article for Press Associates International. Photo: SEIU supporter in 2008. SEIU International // CC 2.0