The AFL-CIO plans to roll out its biggest political campaign ever, surpassing the $53 million spent in 2008 to help elect President Barack Obama, to try to avert a repeat of the 1994 midterm election when Democrats lost a majority in Congress.
n its political campaign, the AFL-CIO is focusing its efforts on a "firewall" of six states with key congressional elections and where union voters make up a relatively high proportion of the electorate: California, New York, Illinois, Nevada, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
On Tuesday, the AFL-CIO said it would endorse Arkansas Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, who announced Monday he would challenge Sen. Blanche Lincoln. That will include millions of dollars in financial backing and thousands of members knocking on doors to get voters to polls. The Communications Workers of America, the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees have pledged $1 million each to support Mr. Halter.
Recent Republican victories in Massachusetts and elsewhere have worried union officials, but unions also see an opportunity to make a populist pitch to voters angered by the government's bailout of distressed banks, an approach that could work against Democrats who voted for it and the Obama administration.
Tension is growing between organized labor and the administration. On Tuesday, the labor federation said it was "appalled" at comments made by Mr. Obama Monday saying he supported the firing of high school teachers as an example of the need for accountability in poorly performing schools. Labor leaders also pressed Vice President Joseph Biden in a closed-door meeting Monday about a recess appointment of a union-supported nominee to the National Labor Relations Board that the president has so far not agreed to make, according to several people who attended the meeting.