SEIU endorses Obama for reelection

The Service Employees International Union endorsed President Obama for reelection Wednesday morning, an unsurprising but important move that will help the president's chances for a second term.

"SEIU’s 2.1 million members … are proud to announce our endorsement of President Barack Obama for reelection. President Obama fights for working families," said SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. "He made working families a priority while other leaders sided with corporations and millionaires."

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Henry characterized the endorsement as a stance with working families, and embraced the rhetoric of the Occupy Wall Street movement.

"Getting our endorsement announced today is a way to up the ante in behalf of the 99 percent in this country," she said.

The SEIU is the fastest-growing and one of the largest unions in the country. It spent $60 million helping to elect Obama in 2008, and $16 million on the 2010 midterm elections. Their extensive organizing structure will help Obama with voter registration drives and get-out-the-vote operations.

Obama returned the favor by using former SEIU head Andy Stern as a sounding board during his push to reform the health insurance industry and by naming him to his National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform after Stern stepped down from the SEIU. Stern was known as the union head with the closest relationship with Obama, and the SEIU's early endorsement shows they still are still on board with the president's agenda.

The group has a large number of members in some key swing states, including Florida, Nevada and Colorado.

Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina welcomed the endorsement. "SEIU and the president share many common goals — chief among them a belief that we must do everything we can to create good-paying American jobs and a fair economic foundation that will let all workers succeed," said Messina in a statement.

"Too often, the issue of workers’ rights is exploited by those who seek to divide us," he continued. "But these rights — healthy and safe workplaces, collective bargaining, better access to affordable health care — are what has made the American middle class the envy of the world and enabled us to better fulfill our nation’s promise.  SEIU has been at the forefront of this fight, and we are proud to have its endorsement."

Obama has come under fire from some unions for not fighting hard enough on issues ranging from card check legislation, a key union priority, to his failure to pursue comprehensive immigration reform, to his compromises around the debt ceiling and extending former President George W. Bush's tax breaks for millionaires.

But Henry said her union, at least, will stand fully behind him.

"We absolutely do not believe this is a 'lesser of the two evils' endorsement," she said. 

This post was updated at 12:55 p.m.