Unions' All-Out Effort Comes Up Short; Election Results Show Dwindling Political Influence of Labor Leaders

Article excerpt

Byline: William Glanz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Unions spent a record amount and organized their most aggressive grass-roots political campaign effort ever for the 2004 election.

But their best wasn't good enough to help Democrats reclaim the White House, leaving labor leaders to agonize over their diminishing influence.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said yesterday the message to the dwindling ranks of organized labor is clear: "We have to do more."

The AFL-CIO spent about $45 million in 16 battleground states to print and distribute campaign literature, help union locals set up phone banks, train people to monitor polling places and fund other grass-roots efforts.

The 1.7 million-member Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) campaign spending reached $65 million, three times more than it spent on the presidential election four years ago to support Vice President Al Gore. The union dispatched about 2,000 volunteers to 14 battleground states.

The massive investment by unions helped them generate support. Mr. Sweeney said union workers knocked on 6 million doors and passed out 32 million pieces of campaign literature.

"In the Lehigh Valley, we canvassed areas that have never been canvassed before," said Daniel Meehan, a member of the SEIU Local 668 in Bethlehem, Pa.

An estimated 27 million union members voted Tuesday.

Union members supported Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, by a margin of nearly 2-to-1, according to a poll for the AFL-CIO conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates. About 65 percent of union workers voted for Mr. Kerry and 33 percent of union members voted for President Bush, said Geoffrey Garin, president of Peter D. …