Union Official Says Labor Could Be The ‘Firewall’ For Democrats In Tight Races

Oct 18, 2010 1:08pm

ABC's Michael Falcone reports:

Major labor unions are ramping up efforts to get their members to the polls as they seek to boost vulnerable Democrats in dozens of tight races who are relying on a robust ground game ahead of Election Day.

In a memo released on Monday, AFL-CIO political director Karen Ackerman notes that the union group boasts the “largest political mobilization operation in the country” — second only to the political parties.

This week alone, the AFL-CIO plans to send out 4.1 million pieces of mail and make 8.2 million phone calls, and they’re covering a lot of ground. The labor group is involved in eight Senate races across the country, including in Connecticut, Kentucky and Pennsylvania, ten governor’s races, including Ohio, Oregon and Florida, and 71 House races.

 “Union members view us, and rely on us, as a trusted source of information," Ackerman wrote in the memo. "Because of it, we cut through the clutter of the unprecedented amounts of unreported corporate cash being funneled through the Chamber of Commerce and Karl Rove’s right wing groups."

The AFL-CIO is continuing to focus its voter contacts this week on a “persuasion” campaign designed to help individual candidates, but starting next week they will switch gears to what Ackerman called a “massive” get-out-the-vote operation.

Just one example: Beginning on Monday, the AFL-CIO will be providing shuttle bus service to early voting sites for union members who work at hotels and casinos in Las Vegas. Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., is in the political fight of his life against Republican Sharron Angle, represents a critical test of the voter mobilization efforts of Democrats and organized labor.

According to the union’s tally, volunteers have handed out a total of 17.5 million leaflets, made over 23.6 million phone calls and knocked on over 1.3 million doors. And the AFL-CIO has fully embraced e-mail, blogs, Facebook, Twitter and text messages to reach their members.

Ackerman said the AFL-CIO’s efforts are paying off.

The organization's internal polling of union members shows a significant uptick for Democrats on the generic Congressional ballot as well as greater support for Democratic candidates in some of the most competitive Senate races, including in Pennsylvania, Nevada, California and Washington state.

“This direct one-on-one contact is going to make the difference in key races. I’m not saying there won’t be losses. There will be,” Ackerman wrote, but added: “Our grassroots program is going to make the difference, race by race, to hold majorities that work for working families.”

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