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Poll: Obama support strong among unions

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Barack Obama won the votes of most union members who cast ballots in last week’s election, but union members in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Washington and Michigan were especially supportive of the Democratic president-elect.

Obama received 60 percent of the union vote in 14 states where voters were asked whether they were union members, according to an exit poll by The Associated Press. The survey found that Obama was favored by roughly seven in 10 union voters in Pennsylvania, Nevada, Washington and Michigan.

In all four states, union support for Obama was stronger than it was for Democrat John Kerry in 2004. Although union membership has been dwindling nationally, all four have membership rates higher than the national average of 12 percent of wage and salary workers.

Organized labor contributed nearly $312,000 to Obama in the 2008 election cycle, nearly 20 times as much as it gave to Republican nominee John McCain, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

With its 21 electoral votes, Pennsylvania was a major battleground for Obama and McCain, and it was a high campaign priority for organized labor. McCain also had actively competed against Obama for Michigan’s 17 electoral votes, but conceded that state in early October.

Of the 11,000 volunteers recruited to staff phone banks for the United Steelworkers, 1,800 came from Pennsylvania, the highest of any state, said Chuck Rocha, the union’s national political director.

Rocha said the Steelworkers were especially motivated to support Obama because of his outreach to organized labor.

“John Kerry would not say the word ‘union’ on the stump,” Rocha said.

The United Mine Workers of America placed Pennsylvania on its list of high-priority states for campaigning, spokesman Phil Smith said.

In all states where the union was active, “We were leafleting work sites weekly — by the end of the campaign, almost daily,” Smith said.

The national AFL-CIO and its 56 affiliated unions sent 250,000 union members into 21 states during the general election campaign as part of a $250 million grass-roots mobilization effort.

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