Endorsing Obama, SEIU says president for 99%
November 16th, 2011
11:22 AM ET
10 years ago

Endorsing Obama, SEIU says president for 99%

(CNN) - One of the nation's largest labor unions gave an early endorsement to Pres. Barack Obama Wednesday, using lingo from the Occupy movement to describe the incumbent president as standing with the 99%, rather than millionaires and corporations in the 1%.

"As Americans we face stark choice," Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry said Wednesday. "Do we want leaders who side with rich corporations, the 1% who are prospering, or leaders who side with us, the 99 percent?"

The SEIU, which represents 2.1 million workers in a wide swath of American service industries, has long endorsed Democrats in political races. The union endorsed Obama in February 2008, when he was still locked in competition with fellow candidate Hillary Clinton.

With no Democratic primary this cycle, the union's endorsement of Obama was all but assured. Henry did note the group was endorsing Obama early in the cycle to make their intentions clear.

"The early endorsement is to make crystal clear what kind of country we want and that we think President Barack Obama is the leader that will help make that a reality in this country," Henry said.

Henry said the Occupy movement, which opposes the unequal distribution of wealth in America, provided a strong ally for the SEIU in its endorsement.

"This is about our members being united in the belief that things are broken in this country, and we need to come together in numbers to help fix it," Henry said. "That means joining forces with students, neighbors, the unemployed, and working people in the encampments. This is an act of solidarity with the 99% movement."

But in an interview, Occupy DC spokesman Sam Jewler denied any alignment with the union.

"We certainly have not endorsed President Obama or any other politicians," Jewler told CNN during an interview Wednesday at an impromptu tent city a few blocks from the White House.

He said from his perspective, "the whole system has problems, so there's no single politician who's able to fix the money and politics, the growing wealth disparity. None of them can answer to that, because all of them are taking money from the corporations and the wealthy."

Jewler acknowledged SEIU has provided support for OccupyDC, such as allowing demonstrators to use showers in the union's Washington office building, but that there was no implied endorsement of SEIU's use of the group's rally wording.

"Any time they use the rhetoric of 99% or the Occupy Movement, that's entirely on them. It has nothing to do with anything we're saying to them," Jewler said.

"We're having a lot of influence on the national conversation, so a lot of people are going to be using that language. Personally, I think that the more it gets out, the better," while adding, "I certainly don't like to see it co-opted and used for disingenuous purposes."

Henry said her organization would help the president's re-election bid by mobilizing members to volunteer and providing education materials about the economy. According to CNN national exit polls from the 2008 election, 61% of voters who said they were in a union voted for Obama.

In a statement, Obama campaign manager Jim Messina said the endorsement from SEIU was a step toward creating American jobs.

"SEIU and the President share many common goals - chief among them a belief that we must do everything we can to create good-paying American jobs and a fair economic foundation that will let all workers succeed," Messina's statement read. "Throughout the next year we'll employ that same energy and unity, working together to do everything we can to ensure the President has four more years to strengthen middle-class families' economic security."

Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (44 Responses)

    SEIU is so far left,they are what Obama needs to threathen others in this race

    November 16, 2011 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  2. texan

    I have a novel approach !!!! -– FIRE the entire self-serving, out of touch lot. Our "public servants" ( and I use that term LOOSELY ) must be accountable to ALL the laws and rules ordinary citizens must abide by. They are immune to many laws ordinary citizens are sent to prison for every day. -- Insider trading, for example, is the big reason many retire Multi-millionaires on a public servant`s salary. The other is obvious- lobby $$$$$ by the thousands.

    November 16, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  3. Cody

    We do need to re-elect Obama and we need to give the Democrats a filibuster proof majority so that we can actually make some progress.

    Vote out the gridlock in 2012!

    November 16, 2011 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  4. one voice

    Rally up the troops folks, the Democrats are going to take Our Country back from the CROOKED RIGHT. Democrats for the 99%ers. Obama/Biden 2012

    November 16, 2011 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  5. one voice

    Scott Walker is the next Koch Brothers shills that will go down by RECALL Radical agenda will no longer be tolerated. DEMS 2012 AND BEYOND. Let's move Our Country forward.

    November 16, 2011 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  6. No Unions Please.

    All unions are doing now is keeping bad employes working. They had a purpose at one time, and now they are just a pain. SEIU is retarded.

    November 16, 2011 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  7. Ed DFWTX

    The republican Party must think that everyone is as dumb as their misguided base. Obama has succeeded far beyond what any Republican would have done. His administration saved the economy from a depression and saw it begin to grow and add jobs every single month until the House fell to the Republicans. The GOP lives in denial. They are well aware that their policies of re-distributing wealth from the middle class to their wealthy contributors is bad for the country, but they continue down this path with no concern for the working and middle class. .

    November 16, 2011 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  8. Four and The Door

    How have the 99% fared now that Obama's huge programs have had their run? The 1% have done just fine. Imagine that. Obama talks out of one side of his face and acts out of the other. Americans are smarter than that.

    Romney 2012!

    November 16, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  9. Cindy

    AMEN Cody. We need to re-elect Obama and get this Country back on track. All the Republicans are doing is holding up progress. It's ashame President Obama has to deal with these obstructionist, but I think the American People are finally getting it. Obama 2012.

    November 16, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  10. PRO RIGHT to have a LIFE

    I support our troops and have two sons in the military. I support the SEIU and all bargaining units, the 99%, President Obama, Joe the Biden, Hillary Clinton, and all of my fellow Americans. I support the 1% by putting in my hard days work and buying their products, but I demand a fair shake!

    November 16, 2011 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  11. Chris

    SEIU=Socialist Employees International Union.

    I agree with some of these responses that the Big profits from these Big Corps are outrageous, and the compensation of top management is ridiculous, but Obama supports many large businesses....the ones in industries that the Democratic Party suports. He's done nothing, nothing to change the crazy disporportionate incomes in America. He bailed out Freedie Mac with Billions/ and then they gave their Yop execs Billions in compensation. Where was Obama when that was happening? Golfing? Jet setting across the Atlantic to dinner in Europe?

    He and his administration has killed our chance as a nation to prosper. We will likely never dig out of the hole he has created. Unless we get a hold of his spending, everyone will be broke, there will be no unions....only food lines.

    November 16, 2011 11:51 am at 11:51 am |
  12. Rudy NYC

    The Republican Party was shellacked in the 2011 elections. The reasons are obvious. The American people are tired of the capricious policies and idiotology. They're not going to stand for it anymore.

    Some of the old guard (who have kept low profiles since the Tea Party was born) Republicans have quietly tried to point out the flaws of the Republican national discourse and policies. You will no doubt hear more criticism of Republican leaders in the weeks and months to come, coming from within their ranks. I think it is too late for the Republican Party to save itself. The GOTP will implode before we see a return to the Republican Party of decades ago; one which supported the interstate highway system, one which supported theoretical research and education, one which supported VA hospitals instead of closing them, a party that had leaders capable of sentient debate.

    November 16, 2011 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  13. RINO Bil

    The Republican Tea Party and their presidential candidates have made their mission in life to demean, denounce, disband and dismantle unions across the country. In what universe were they not going to endorse Obama?

    November 16, 2011 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  14. Fair is Fair

    News Flash – The SEIU endorses Obama for president.

    In other news, the federal government has received the final report from a year-long study to define the dampness of water. Said one expert, "All indications have confirmed our initial beliefs that water is indeed, wet."

    November 16, 2011 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  15. JRuss

    so a politicial that takes his orders from big business and the unions is better than one that takes his orders from big business?

    November 16, 2011 12:08 pm at 12:08 pm |
  16. Thomas

    We as Americans need to understand that the 99% is a world movement. It's not socialist or communist . It's about a quality of life and a right to fairness and equality. The economic divide and the economic uncertainty in the market is of global concern.

    In my travels around the world . There is much respect for Obama Unlike our former president .

    My hats off to our president !

    November 16, 2011 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  17. Roger

    Turn the House in 2012 and re-elect Obama 2012.

    November 16, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Charlie from the North

    I get why the Koch brothers and their Tea-party hate the President. It makes total sense. They want to keep all their money and Obama wants them to pay their fair share. What I don't get is how anyone making less than a millin dollars a year would ever support the T-Party. It is not in theirs or the country's best interest. Do they really think "Hey someday I will make a billion dollars and when I do the gummint ain't gonna tell me whut to do wit it"? If that does not boggle your mind are you sure you have one?

    November 16, 2011 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  19. Mace

    I will take the RICH over the leg breakers at the SEIU anyday. I won't even invest in a company that is unionized. Historically they are loser investments due to all the ridiculous union benefits.

    November 16, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  20. MTATL67

    The Republican party have become obstructionists. I ask every Republican the same questions. Can you name one person Republicans helped get or keep a job? Can you name a small business that Republicans help keep open or get started? Can you name an industry that you prevented from collapsing? Name a community that Republicans help rebuild after one of the many disasters around the country? I know this I am in my new home because of President Obama. I am not afraid to spend money (hopefully it helps to keep someone employed and in their home). I know that my buddy was able to keep his job because of President Obama. Yes, that friend is still employed. I know this, I have another friend who lost her job because the Governor of Georgia refused stimulus money for education and then laid off teachers. She finally got a job but it is not teaching American kids. She and her family are heading overseas. The GOP is literally dumbing our country to death. I will not vote the Republican candidates because I will not give my vote to a party that has sacrificed so many opportunities to put Americans back to work just so they can gain power.

    November 16, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  21. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I am not a union member, but I have a lot of benefits that unions have worked hard for. It is nice to have group health insurance, a retirement plan, overtime benefits, a living wage, three weeks paid vacation, holidays off, and work safety regulations. Those who have never worked usually do not like unions.

    November 16, 2011 12:15 pm at 12:15 pm |
  22. OccupyOur Democracy

    Exactly how has President Obama stood with the 99%? Seem to me he has catered to the 1% the same way Romney or any of the crazy Republican field of candidates would. And endorsing him now, so early,pretty much ensures President Omaba that he has nothing to fear if he continues to cater to the 1%

    November 16, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  23. easydoesit

    Is there any surprise in this endorsement really? The fact that this is even considered news is crazy. WOW unions support obama big woop!!

    November 16, 2011 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Yellow-Rose

    Unions are exactly why Obama will be a one-term president. Even Steve Jobs knew Obama would be a one-term president........."That's because regulations and unions in the United States were crippling its ability to remain competitive with emerging powerhouses like China"

    November 16, 2011 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  25. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Obama 2012. Seriously America.

    November 16, 2011 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
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