Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has the endorsement of three unions representing more than 1.8 million American workers and retirees.

Edwards, who is campaigning in Iowa over this Labor Day holiday, announced this morning that the United Steelworkers and the United Mine Workers of America are backing his bid for the White House. Last Thursday another union — the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners in America — endorsed Edwards as well.

During a telephone interview with Radio Iowa, Leo Gerard – the president of the Steelworkers – said his membership likes Edwards’ positions on tax and trade issues. 

"Senator Edwards has been really fighting for working families his whole life," Gerard said. "As a trial lawyer, he represented injured children against big insurance companies and stood up to them and won. The fact that he was the first to come up with a health care plan that could lead us to universal health care — those things meant a lot to our members."

Gerard’s union represents over a million workers and retirees, making it the largest industrial union in the country. "When we canvassed them to see who they felt would be the candidate that they would most likely support, Senator Edwards came out by a margin of sometimes two and three to one," Gerard said.

Nearly 7000 Iowans are members of the United Steelworkers. Estimates indicated about one-third of likely 2004 Iowa Democratic Caucus-goers were either a union member, or lived in a union household.

"We have a lot of literally professional caucus-goers in our union that are anxious to be able to go to the caucus, but also very anxious to be able to work for Senator Edwards before the Caucuses," Gerard said. "…We’re convinced that we’re going to be able to play a very helpful role."

Edwards’ brother is a member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and his mother was a member of the Rural Letter Carriers union.

Elizabeth Edwards, the candidate’s wife, is in Pittsburg for today’s Steelworkers endorsement. She told Radio Iowa unions want to know a candidate stands with them on job-related issues as well as trade. 

"But they also want to know that your heart is with the working man and the working family," she said. "John’s whole life story is a confirmation that this is not some position he has adopted for the purposes of a campaign, but who he is as a human being."

This past week, the International Association of Firefighters endorsed Democratic presidential candidate Chris Dodd and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers endorsed Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Mike Huckabee.