Nation's largest union asks members to back Obama’s reelection

The National Education Association (NEA) has asked its members to support President Obama’s bid for a second term in the White House.

The move by the NEA — the country's largest union, with more than 3 million members — shows that labor, a traditional ally of Democrats, is gearing up for the 2012 election.

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Labor support will be critical for Obama and for several Senate Democrats who are expected to face tough reelection campaigns. 

NEA’s political action committee approved a recommendation Thursday to support Obama's reelection bid. The union’s representative assembly will meet in Chicago in July to vote on the PAC’s recommendation.

“NEA support in elections is powerful; our members are reliable and consistent voters. One in a hundred Americans is an NEA member, and our members live in every congressional district in the nation,” Dennis Van Roekel, NEA’s president, said in a statement. “We take this responsibility seriously and felt it was important to make the recommendation sooner, rather than later.”

Van Roekel cited the new Republican majority in the House as a reason to get the ball rolling for a formal endorsement of Obama. 

“The midterm elections have shown us what can happen when education legislation and decisions are left in the hands of politicians who do not support public education — those of us in education call this a teachable moment,” Van Roekel said. 

Labor will be vital for Democrats next election as they seek to keep the White House and maintain control of the Senate. Unions often provide much of the ground troops for the party during campaign season with aggressive get-out-the vote efforts.

The relationship between the president and unions has been rocky at times, with many labor leaders angered by the White House’s recent focus on passing trade deals.

Nevertheless, actions by the GOP-run House and state governors to restrict union rights seem to have helped energized union members for the next election.