The state’s largest union has endorsed Democrat Michael Blouin’s bid to become Iowa’s next governor.

AFSCME — the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees — has endorsed the winner in every Democratic gubernatorial primary since 1986. The union has 16,000 dues-paying members and its organizational muscle was considered a key component of Governor Tom Vilsack’s come-from-behind victory in the 1998 Democratic primary as well as in the general election.

Don Homan of Sioux City, AFSCME’s Iowa president, says Blouin consistently backed issues important to union workers when Blouin was a state legislator over three decades ago and when Blouin was an Iowa congressman in the mid-1970s.

“He has supported, and he did support, the passage of Iowa’s collective bargaining law,” Homan says. “He has a stellar record with labor as a legislator and a congressman.”

One reason Blouin rather than rivals Chet Culver or Ed Fallon won AFSCME’s endorsement is because Blouin met personally with hundreds of AFSCME members in the past few months. AFSCME member Mindy Kemper of Donelson says she met Blouin when he visited her worksite — the Iowa State Penitentiary in Fort Madison.

“And he talked to every member that we could find,” Kemper says. “He’s shown that he is committed to the staff that will eventually be working for him.”

Marty Hathaway of Coralville, an employee at the state prison’s classification center where inmates are taken into the corrections system, says Blouin met with workers there three weeks ago in a blizzard. Hathaway says Blouin was there for an hour and a half and met with every worker who was there.

“That tells me he will be a governor for the people of Iowa and not for just a few,” Hathaway says.

Vlonda Shook of Des Moines, a new AFSCME member who is a child care provider, says she’s convinced Blouin will be a champion for kids. Shook says she believes Blouin, who’s a former school teacher, will make education, including preschool education, a priority if he’s elected governor.

Blouin thanked Shook and the rest of the several dozen AFSCME members who stood around him to make the announcement, many waving green signs with the AFSCME logo.

“What a beautiful day,” Blouin said. “I have come to love green. I’m going to see a whole lot more of it.”

Homan, AFSCME’s Iowa president, says Blouin will get a boost from AFSCME both financially and with campaign volunteers who’ll work the phones and hit the streets to organize for Blouin.

“We’re committing to work and spend as much time and resources as we have to help Mike Blouin get through the primary and then get elected…governor of this state,” Homan says. “We believe he’s the best person for that job.”

Here’s the list of Democratic gubernatorial candidates AFSCME has endorsed in the past 20 years: Lowell Junkins in 1986, Don Avenson in 1990, Bonnie Campbell in 1994, Tom Vilsack in 1998 and again in 2002.