Teachers' unions plan to rev up recess action to protect Democrats' majority

Several unions will pivot off expected House passage of the latest jobs bill to rev up their campaign machinery during the August recess.

The House plans to vote Tuesday on Senate-passed legislation that provides $16 billion in extended Medicaid benefits and $10 billion in education funding for the states.

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The schools funding has big significance for union members, many of whom could lose their jobs if the money doesn’t come through. Labor officials plan an onslaught against those who oppose it.

For the most part, that will mean Republicans, as labor is digging in to protect a threatened Democratic majority.

“We are set to launch a robust field plan across the country during the month of August, including advertising and grassroots events,” said Gerry McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), in a statement. “We intend to highlight the clear choice Americans will make in November between Democrats who are working to protect jobs and move the economy forward and Republicans who are willing to wreck the economy for political gain.”

AFSCME in particular is hugely affected by the legislation since it is the largest public sector union in the country, but other unions plan to campaign off the jobs bill vote too.

The AFL-CIO will begin a series of rallies, phone banks and letters thanking House members who voted for the legislation. In contrast, union members will campaign against candidates — likely primarily GOP ones — who voted against the bill and “put their political interests ahead of 900,000 jobs,” according to a union official.

The labor federation will be concentrating its resources in 23 states, with high priority given to California, Illinois, Nevada, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Political staff trained by the AFL-CIO will be on the ground in those states, along with press aides to drum up media interest.

“We will do the most intensive on-the-ground education program that we have done in a number of years,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said. “We will be hitting every one of those battleground states.”

The core of the program is to get union members to convince their colleagues to become politically active, and vote. The AFL-CIO hopes to prompt those talks with leafleting, phone banking and canvassing door-to-door, which began in July.

Also during the recess, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is joining in a coalition with several others, including US Action, Health Care for America Now and Americans for Responsible Taxes, to campaign on "economic fairness" issues.

In addition, voter registration drives will be held in California, while Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Dan Onorato is expected to take part in SEIU’s “Walk a Day in My Shoes” program, where he spend the work day with a nursing home worker. To earn SEIU’s endorsement in 2008, several Democratic presidential candidates, including President Obama, took part in the program.

The United Steelworkers will also be active this month, said the union's president, Leo Gerard.

“During this recess, we will be ramping up our on-the-ground operations, especially in the heavy industrialized states where our membership is the strongest,” Gerard said. “Our objective is to make sure we define the choice between the likes of John Boehner and a Nancy Pelosi, between a Harry Reid and a Sharron Angle.”

According to Gerard, those states include Alabama, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

A sentence in this article was corrected on Aug. 9 at 3:54 p.m. A second sentences was corrected at 6:07 p.m.