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Labor Union Unveils $150M campaign     02/27 06:17

   One of the nation's largest labor unions is unveiling plans to invest $150 
million in a nationwide campaign to help defeat President Donald Trump, a 
sweeping effort focused on eight battleground states and voters of color who 
typically don't vote.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- One of the nation's largest labor unions is unveiling 
plans to invest $150 million in a nationwide campaign to help defeat President 
Donald Trump, a sweeping effort focused on eight battleground states and voters 
of color who typically don't vote.

   The investment marks the largest voter engagement and turnout operation in 
the history of the Service Employees International Union, which claims nearly 2 
million members. The scope of the campaign, which quietly launched last month 
and will run through November's general election, reflects the urgency of what 
union president Mary Kay Henry calls "a make-or-break" moment for working 
people in America under Trump's leadership.

   "He's systematically unwinding and attacking unions. Federal workers rights 
have been totally eviscerated under his watch," Henry said in an interview. "We 
are on fire about the rules being rigged against us and needing to elect people 
that are going to stand with workers."

   The union's campaign will span 40 states and target 6 million voters focused 
largely in Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, 
Virginia and Wisconsin, according to details of the plan shared with The 
Associated Press. The union and its local members will pay particular attention 
to two key urban battlegrounds they believe will play a defining role in the 
2020 general election: Detroit and Milwaukee. There may be some television 
advertising, but the investment will focus primarily on direct contact and 
online advertising targeting minority men and women who typically don't vote. 

   Few groups of voters will be more important in the 2020 general election. 
Trump won the presidency four years ago largely because of his popularity with 
working-class whites and a drop-off in turnout from minority voters.

   The union's political director, Maria Peralta, noted that Trump's campaign 
has been working effectively in recent months to win over some minority voters, 
particularly men, who have traditionally voted Democratic.

   "He's going after our communities in ways that are pervasive. We're deeply 
aware of that," Peralta said. "They're talking about the strength of the 
economy."

   The Service Employees International Union, like the Democratic Party and its 
allies across the nation, faces significant headwinds in its fight to deny 
Trump a second term. Voters who may dislike his overall job performance are 
generally pleased with his leadership on the economy, and unemployment for 
black Americans has hit record lows in recent months.

   At the same time, Trump's campaign is far ahead of where it was four years 
ago, when it had little national organization. 

   On Wednesday, the Trump campaign announced plans to open 15 "Black Voices 
for Trump Community Centers" in battleground states and major cities, including 
Michigan and Wisconsin. The offices will feature a line of campaign swag 
adopting the "woke" label, and videos of prominent Trump surrogates like online 
stars Diamond and Silk explaining their support for the president and pamphlets 
outlining the president's record.

   SEIU is the most diverse union in the United States. The union's membership 
features those who work in health care, food service, janitorial services and 
state and local government workers, among others. Half its members are people 
of color, and more than half make less than $15 an hour.

   The 2020 investment is designed to benefit Democrats up and down the ballot 
this fall, though defeating Trump stands as a primary goal.

   That said, SEIU's political team has determined that a message simply 
attacking Trump isn't effective with its target audience, which includes a 
significant number of conservatives.

   "We don't want to get too caught up in the Trump bashing," Peralta said. 
"Data shows people care about wages, and they care about health care across the 
board."

   The union also determined that it's particularly effective to highlight 
Trump's work to weaken labor unions and conditions for working-class Americans.

   After campaigning for a higher minimum wage, Trump has done little to raise 
the federal minimum wage, which has been stuck at $7.25 for more than a decade. 
His administration has also taken steps to make it harder for new groups of 
workers to form unions. And labor officials have decried his appointments to 
the National Labor Relations Board and the Supreme Court, which dealt a huge 
blow to labor in 2018 by ruling that government workers no longer could be 
required to pay union fees.

   When asked, Henry had little to say about the specific Democratic 
presidential contenders fighting for the chance to take on Trump. SEIU may 
endorse a candidate in the coming months, she said, but it has decided to stay 
out of the messy nomination fight for now.

   "We're trying to figure out, inside our union as we walk through Super 
Tuesday and through March, what do working people and our members think about 
the choice in the field," Henry said.


(KR)

 
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