The nation’s fastest growing union has committed $85 million to voter registration and turnout efforts in a dozen key states, including Iowa. Iowa State University Political Science Professor Steffen Schmidt says the announcement from the Service Employees International Union is good news for Barack Obama.
"That union, in particular, is very widespread. It’s the only union that is rapidly growing. They’re very organized and they turn out the voters," Schmidt said. SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger says the union’s political work will also benefit democrats further down on the ballot. She says this will be the most aggressive advertising and door to door campaign in the union’s history.
While union membership has dropped sharply since the 1980s, New Hampshire political commentator Arnie Arneson says the union message becomes more attractive to voters during an economic downturn. "As people suddenly realize that they’re losing a job, they need someone to help organize them. When people are looking at their benefits basically eating up their paycheck, they suddenly think, ‘maybe a union isn’t such a bad thing,’" Arneson said. "So, all the sudden, the group that really represents working America and more and more of us are not working or are underemployed, it’s really go to be…a more receptive audience."
In fact, after several years of decline, union membership grew in 2007 by more than 300-thousand people nationwide. The SEIU represents two million heathcare, security and public service workers nationwide.