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August 22, 2014, 3:49 am

Service workers union backs Obama, talks to voters

Service Employee’s International Union (SEIU) is throwing the weight of its 2.1 million members behind President Barack Obama’s campaign — working to convince African-American and Latino voters in eight battleground states to cast their ballots to re-elect the president.

“We’re focusing on the rising American electorate,” said Eliseo Medina, SEIU International secretary treasurer. “Labor households, Latino voters, African-American voters and young voters.”

Union officials hope to register as many as 600,000 new voters.

“We’re probably going to talk to three times as many general voters as we ever have,” said Brandon Davis, the union’s political director.

SEIU is focusing its efforts in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — all key battleground states in the upcoming election. According to union officials, they will be making 13 million phone calls and knocking on 3 million doors.

Medina and other union officials announced the new blitz Tuesday. It followed the announcement of a $4 million Spanish language TV and radio campaign last week aimed at Latino voters in Colorado, Florida and Nevada.

The president has the overwhelming support of Black voters.

According to Gallup Poll’s latest figures, 83 percent of African Americans support Obama, a slight decrease from the 85 percent and above the president has enjoyed for most of his term. Latinos also continue to support Obama in large majorities, with Gallup finding 61 percent approve of the president.

But, union officials want to make sure they vote.

“Far too much is at stake this election cycle. We are using our human and capital resources to stand by candidates who will stand up for working people, and not return the country to the failed policies of the past,” said Medina. “We know our communities can make a difference when they go to the polls.”

SEIU member Samara Knight, a nursing assistant from Cleveland, Ohio, is one of about 700 union members who will be paid to organize in her community.

“There is a lot at stake for my family in this election, and the difference between where President Obama stands and Mitt Romney’s policies couldn’t be clearer,” Knight said, crying as she spoke about losing her home and being overwhelmed with her son’s medical bills.

Overall, union officials said they hoped to have 100,000 volunteers on the streets.

Their efforts are being helped by Republican candidate Mitt Romney, Medina said.

“God bless his little heart … when he is going out and making clear to the Latino community where he stands. He makes very clear where he stands … from our point of view all we have to do is tell the Latino community in his own words where he stands,” he said.

SEIU spent approximately $85 million during Obama’s 2008 campaign, and endorsed him over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary.

Since then, its political activities have come under scrutiny.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule, possibly this month, on a case involving the union. In Knox v. SEIU, a case that started in California, a union member sued after the union temporarily raised dues to help pay for political activities.

According to officials taking part in this week’s announcement, members pay about $7 each to fund campaign activities.


Contact staff writer Eric Mayes at (215) 893-5742 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .