The AFL-CIO plans to spend $40 million to turn out the vote in key congressional and gubernatorial races this election cycle, a record amount for the labor organization in a mid-term election. The AFL-CIO spent $35 million in each of the past two mid-term cycles, 2002 and 1998.

Sweeney. (Photo courtesy of AFL-CIO)

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney said at an Aug. 30 briefing that the program will emphasize "pocketbook issues" and on "many of the pivotal competitive races for both the House and Senate."

Karen Ackerman, the federation's political director, said the plan includes 56 House races, 10 Senate contests and 14 gubernatorial races, with a particular focus on states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Ohio that have large numbers of union members.

The AFL-CIO's goal, she said, is to reach 12.4 million voters in 21 states. It also aims to increase the voter turnout of union members by at least 10 percentage points and provide more than 1.2 million additional votes for endorsed candidates, compared with totals in 2002, the last mid-term election.

The $40-million budget excludes direct contributions to candidates through the AFL-CIO's Political Action Committee (PAC). Ackerman says the federation PAC had raised and spent about $1.5 million per election cycle.

In addition, individual unions have their own PACs, which contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates.

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  • Seven former AFL-CIO unions, including the carpenters, laborers and teamsters, have left the federation to form the Change to Win coalition. Sweeney says "the split is certainly not helping American workers and their issues." But he said that a process has been set up for Change to Win union locals can affiliate with the federation at the state or city level. HE says about 1,500 such locals have had affiliation charters approved.

    "We are working very closely with many of the disaffiliated unions" on campaign activities, Sweeney says. He adds that several of the coalition unions "have turned over their mailing lists to us" so AFL-CIO can contact their members for the election push. Sweeney says, "We're hoping that we're going to have a very united labor movement throughout this campaign."