Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has gotten the endorsement of the Iowa affiliate of the politically-active Service Employees International Union.

Nearly all of the roughly SEIU members in Iowa work in a hospital according to Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, the manager of the Edwards campaign in Iowa.  

"Of course this is an enormous boost for us here in Iowa," O’Malley Dillon says. "…SEIU is one of the most powerful and respected forces out there in organizing and Democratic politics."

SEIU has members at health care facilities in Iowa City, Clinton, Davenport, Creston, Des Moines, and in Dubuque where Edwards has marched with striking nurses.

"This endorsement will help us turn out SEIU’s members in Iowa (and) also their families," O’Malley Dillon says. "It’s just a really important base for us to have."

 Each of the Democratic presidential candidates had participated in SEIU’s "Walk a Day in My Shoes" events, accompanying nurses and other health care workers on their daily rounds, and O’Malley Dillon says that shows the SEIU endorsement was coveted.

"In the Iowa Caucus where the turn-out will not be as high as it would be in, say, a primary 2000 households and families will make a great difference on Caucus Night," she says.

Other state affiliates of the Service Employees International Union will be endorsing Edwards late this afternoon at an event in Iowa City. Edwards also has won the endorsement of the Steelworkers, the Mine Workers, and the Carpenters Unions. In 2004, Howard Dean touted the backing of the politically-active AFSCME union which had about 60,000 members in Iowa, but Dean wound up finishing third in the Caucuses. Edwards’ Iowa campaign manager disputes the idea Edwards may suffer the same fate.

"I certainly can’t speak to the specifics of what happened in 2004 with Dean and AFSCME," O’Malley Dillon says. "I can say that certainly the Edwards campaign has a strong ground organization in this state that we’ve been building on for several months that I’m not sure the Dean campaign had extensively."

To counter the Edwards announcement of SEIU’s endorsement, Hillary Clinton’s campaign this morning released a list Iowa nurses and health care workers who are endorsing her candidacy.  Barack Obama’s campaign announced the Illinois and Indiana SEIU councils representing more than 170,000 workers has voted unanimously to endorse Obama.

The SEIU’s national leadership announced last week that the union would not be endorsing a candidate, but indicated the group’s state affiliates might do so. The Service Employees International Union represents nearly two million Americans who work in a variety of "service" occupations like janitors and nurses.