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SEIU to tap nonunion homes to aid Obama

Critical swing states eyed for massive voter outreach in fall

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The nation's second-largest public-sector labor union said Tuesday that its efforts to re-elect President Obama will include a much larger outreach to nonunion households in key swing states.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced that it will dedicate 750 members and organize about 100,000 volunteers across the country to advocate the current administration's stance on workers' rights to voters not affiliated with the SEIU.

"We have made a strategic decision that we need to reach out beyond union households," Brandon Davis, the SEIU's political director, said in a conference call with reporters. "We have always run an aggressive general public program ... [but] we're probably going to talk to three times as many general voters as we ever have."

Union officials identified eight states — Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin as the focal points of its effort.

In all, the campaign hopes to make 13 million phone calls, visit 3 million homes and register 600,000 new voters in the course of the campaign. Union officials said that in addition to nonaffiliates, the campaign will focus on speaking to individuals in the "labor electorate," specifically young voters and the rising Hispanic population.

Tuesday's unveiling came on the heels of SEIU's decision just last week to launch a $4 million, Spanish-language advertisement campaign targeting presumed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney as a poor choice for Hispanics.

The campaign has thus far aired four commercials, portraying working-class Hispanics responding negatively to some of Mr. Romney's past comments on unemployment. One of them shows Mr. Romney saying he likes being able to fire people, though he was actually referring to consumers' ability to choose doctors or mechanics and "fire" them if they don't like them.

Outreach to households outside labor's traditional blue-collar base is especially important since unions have seen their share of the labor force slipping for decades from 20.1 percent of workers in 1981 to 11.8 percent in 2011.

SEIU officials appeared undeterred by labor's recent failure to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, whose decision last year to end most collective- bargaining rights for most public-sector unions sparked weeks of demonstrations outside the state Capitol and across the country.

Mr. Davis attributed the defeat to a flood of contributions from outside Wisconsin by conservative individuals and organizations, but said the presence of such donations will not change the union's strategy in the upcoming election.

"Our program is funded by working families and working people an average of $7 per month voluntarily," Mr. Davis said. "It will always be dwarfed by corporate money. Our advantage is on the ground and in unifying communities."

SEIU played a significant role in the 2008 elections, spending roughly $85 million to help elect Mr. Obama and by endorsing him over then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic primary.

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