Opinion: Barack Obama gets union endorsement; another to come?

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The freshman Illinois senator scored the endorsement today of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, according to an exclusive story by The Times’ Tom Hamburger.

Hamburger reports the endorsement of the labor group, which represents 70,000 supermarket and food processing workers, is a real coup for Obama and another blow to Sen. Hillary Clinton’s hopes. The union, another piece in the party establishment falling into line behind Obama, is especially strong in the remaining battleground states of Ohio and Texas.

Also, the executive board of the Service Employees International Union is holding a conference call this evening, when it is expected that the national union will also endorse Obama. It has about 100,000 members just in Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania, all yet to vote in Democratic primaries.

Not so long ago Obama was very unhappy with the SEIU and said so when the union was one of several groups backing John Edwards in Iowa with around $750,000 in TV ads spent by independent 527 groups. Maybe he’ll change his tune tonight.


(UPDATE: After campaigning with Clinton all day, Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland expressed distress at reports of major labor unions moving towards Obama. “I am very unhappy,” said Strickland, who called Andrew Stern, president of SEIU, one of the nation’s largest unions, to express his displeasure. “I told him I was disappointed that SEIU would consider endorsing someone who is gifted but who has limited experience,” Strickland told Hamburger.

(Actually, he didn’t tell Stern that directly. He couldn’t get through to the president. But he did leave his message on Stern’s voicemail in Washington. The governor did not get a call-back by evening.)

(UPDATE to the UPDATE: Now we know why Andrew Stern didn’t call Gov. Strickland back. On Friday, Feb. 15, the 1.9 million member SEIU endorsed Obama.)

-- Andrew Malcolm