February 15th, 2008
01:02 PM ET
10 years ago

Powerful union backs Obama

(CNN) - One of the nation’s strongest unions, the Service Employees International Union, endorsed Barack Obama for president Friday.

The union’s support comes with a massive grassroots voter outreach effort that is a huge force in Democratic politics. That operation will now work on Obama’s behalf nationwide, including the major primary state battlegrounds of Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.

In a conference call with reporters, SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger said the union would immediately begin help mobilize its members and resources on the ground in Wisconsin, which votes on Tuesday.

“When we do an endorsement, we take it seriously,” said Burger.

Earlier in the cycle, John Edwards had wooed many SEIU locals, which endorsed his presidential bid. But the national leadership resisted pressure to back a candidate, saying they would remain neutral through the primary season.

Three sources familiar with the deliberations told CNN’s John King Thursday that union leaders had met via conference call that day to deliberate on the endorsement issue – and that Obama had emerged as the overwhelming consensus choice of state and national leadership.

“We have an enormous amount of respect for Sen. Clinton, and appreciate so much what she’s done for us," union president Andy Stern said Friday.

But he cited "excitement" among the union’s 1.9 million members as the major reason for their decision to endorse Obama – a nod that would supplant the state-by-state endorsements by their locals. He did not deny that recent vote results, most of which had favored Obama, had been a factor in the shift.

Thursday, Obama received another major labor endorsement likely to help in those delegate rich-states, when the 1.3-million member United Food and Commercial Workers Union decided to back his presidential bid.

Clinton recently received a major union nod, when the United Farm Workers decided  last month  to back her White House run.

–CNN Associate Political Editor Rebecca Sinderbrand

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
soundoff (51 Responses)
  1. Roz

    Let's see how far this "HUGE" endorsement gets him. It didn't mean much in Nevada.

    February 15, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  2. TJ


    February 15, 2008 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  3. HRC08

    Hillary doesn't need any endorsments!...They can all endorse Obama for all we care!

    February 15, 2008 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  4. Wayne, Wentzville MO

    I say Hooray for Obama! It's great to see another outstanding endorsement in his column. I just wish the I.B.T. would go ahead and hop aboard, and stop keeping people in suspense.

    February 15, 2008 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  5. Ray - NJ

    How did the one in Nevada work out for him?

    February 15, 2008 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  6. Undecided, but not for Hillary

    its about time.

    February 15, 2008 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  7. JLI

    Biggest union endorsement didn't work in Nevada. Wow, CNN I scrolled the news about this election, you guys beat Obama's PR campaign.

    So much for fair coverage and fair news. I posted in this thead yesterday merely the same sentiment as Roz and it didn't get posted. Really, anything wrong with our observations?

    Hilary, don't let your ideas get stolen please. CNN I dare you post this.

    February 15, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  8. RC

    Good news for Obama! Endorsements are good for all candidates especially large unions like SEIU and UFCWU, no one can deny that...

    February 15, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  9. Dave

    I am a member of the SEIU, most people in this union that I know are supporting Hillary. Like I really care that my Union supports him. He is a liar.

    Go Hillary!!!

    February 15, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. CALIFORNIA - tell it like it is....


    February 15, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  11. Ben from D.C.

    While it doesn't effect me, it probably will effect the people in the union. Regardless, it is better than a Bush endorsement! lol

    February 15, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  12. Kevin from Seattle

    I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired the status quo politics and politicians (McCain and Clinton represents the status quo politics–dry stump speeches of why I'm the best). Obama inspires me to participate in this complex process. Everyone is talking about experience but it was the same experience that you keep referring to that ended our country to war and spiraling economy.

    I want someone new and fresh. All these caucuses, primaries, blue states, red states and now one of the most powerful union is calling for CHANGE!!! People (particularly young people) are inspired to get involved and a big part of that is Barack Obama. Let's be honest, (Bill Clinton and George W Bush had little foreign experience but what does all presidents do? They surround themselves with people with this kind of experience. The smartest is not necessarily is the best leader. Why couldn't Barack reach out to Colin Powell for ideas and solutions on handling the war?

    Lastly, if anyone thinks this is race only.......Barack could get 100% of the black vote but still wouldn't be the nominee....stop insulting our intelligence with this garbage. Hillary is divisive. GO OBAMA!!!

    February 15, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  13. Praetorian, Fort Myers, FL

    S0-let me get this straight....

    If the union were to write him "one" big check it would be special interest money–right?

    What happens if 1.9 million members of a single union donate $1 each? Is that special interest money?

    Qaundry: You decide if he may be under the influence of special interests.

    Really...does anybody believe that this union doesn't expect some return on their investment?

    February 15, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  14. Steven

    Rutt Roh! The fat ladies is starting to warm up!

    February 15, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  15. Kareem from Hampton VA

    Yeah as we all know time has been Obama's best friend! Nevada was way before all of this! Nevada was BEFORE Hillary said that they didnt represent the electorate because it was a caucus! So you are right WE SHALL SEE.....

    February 15, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  16. An Agnostic Democrat

    Looks like the union folks are starting to do their homework and look at Hillary's time on the board of Wal-Mart and her ties to the Tyson chicken farming family. Her campaign manager, Mark Penn, has a very well documented history of union busting to boot! Just google it!

    February 15, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  17. Asians for Hillary

    This will only make Hillary work hard at Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania and win in these states and get the nomination. I fully support Hillary! Hillary, GO!

    February 15, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  18. Ochoano

    These union leaders really fight for the benefits of their members. They settle contracts that provide .15 cents per hour increments every year, they settle contracts which call for members to pay high premiun for their medical insurance, no, no dental insurance. When the union members for to the HMOs thy pay a lot of money for emergencey visits and prescribed medicines, Trust me mebmebrs are usually unionized because they are mandated but they do not trust their leaders. These leaders love their status and the power they feel they have.

    February 15, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  19. Eli

    I think everyone has seen OBAMA and his supporters true colors in the last few days. They are both lacking in substance to a degree, him for not having anything to back up his plans and them for supportting someone just beacuse he is an inspirational speaker. I hope the rest of these states see what is going on and vote HILLARY CLINTON.

    February 15, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  20. Fernandez

    Mr Obama is this not lobbying? Why would Unions, Senators, Governors endorse you for President, Is this not lobbying? All of these perople belong to "special interest groups". Even if you do not accept funds from these guys, they are spending money on your behalf.

    February 15, 2008 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  21. Tim

    How much money did Obama get from this and other unions.

    February 15, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  22. Scott

    This is good for him. The endorsement in NV didn't work for two reasons:

    1 – He didn't have time for it to fully play out. I think coming out of New Hampshire he was a little behind in the game going into NV and there were only like 2-days between the endorsement and the caucus.

    2 – When NV came around he was still introducing himself to the country, especially to Latinos and Hispanics. Now he is better known.

    February 15, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  23. Frank

    I wish John Edwards would side with the Unions now when they need him (and not just when he needed THEM). I don't think it serves John Edwards well to hide in the weeds until the race is over. Did he not ask twice to be our LEADER ?


    February 15, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |



    February 15, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Chris

    Superdelegates are moving to Obama's side
    Hispanics are moving to Obama's side
    Older voters are moving to Obama's side

    Hillary should start preparing her last speech. If she loves the country, she should quit and let Obama who is more favored to lead the nation than McCain. She knows she will lose with McCain.

    Lets see what she does.

    February 15, 2008 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
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