Still, SEIU said its Obama re-election effort, which will target Colorado, Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, will include 100,000 union and nonunion member volunteers for its largest and most targeted political field campaign in its 91-year history.
The AFL-CIO also is taking a different approach this election cycle after announcing last year it would it would focus its 2012 political efforts on candidates according to their stances on issues important to labor — not based on party affiliation.
“Our role is not to build power of a political party or a candidate. It’s to improve the lives of working families and strengthen our economy, our country,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in a 2011 speech at Washington’s National Press Club.
But while unions gave Mr. Obama’s initial presidential campaign a boost four years ago — and certainly will again this year — he is less reliant on their labor’s massive grass-roots ground game than most other Democratic candidates, as he had built up his own sophisticated voter mobilization effort.
A less-than-symbiotic relationship with the president will be fine with some in the labor movement, who have accused him of not doing enough to push key labor initiatives, including the “card check” measure that would allow unions to organize locals if a majority of employees sign cards or petitions — bypassing the traditional secret-ballot method of organizing.
“It’s not as if [labor] is filled with an enormous sense of gratitude that the president and the Democrats have given them what they wanted,” said Norm Ornstein, a political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank. “Democratic presidents are going to hope for a lot of help from labor, but they’re not going to put their eggs entirely in the labor basket.”