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AFL-CIO votes to spend $44m to unseat Bush

BAL HARBOUR, Fla. -- Labor leaders voted yesterday to spend $44 million to mobilize union household voters in November against President Bush, a record sum in an election they say is do-or-die for the labor movement.

The AFL-CIO's get-out-the-vote efforts on behalf of Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, are concentrated in a few battleground states that labor leaders believe will determine the next occupant of the White House. Florida, Ohio, and Missouri top the list.

"People are fed up with this administration's inability to create good jobs and get our country back on track," AFL-CIO President John J. Sweeney said. "They are demanding a change, and we plan to give it to them."

Union leaders meeting this week at a luxury seaside resort approved an increase in the assessments they pay to the AFL-CIO to help fund the $44 million effort, which does not include money the affiliates will spend individually on their own programs. The 64 unions agreed to pay 48 cents per member.

Labor's strength in the workplace has been plummeting, but union members have remained reliable voters for Democrats. One in four voters in the 2000 election was from a union household. That year, the AFL-CIO spent about $41 million to mobilize its 13 million members and their families.

Overall, organized labor funneled $90 million into the 2000 election, and followed with almost $97 million in 2002, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political donations. Bush expects to raise at least $170 million for his reelection bid.

Previous election efforts focused on registering and turning out new union voters. This time, the AFL-CIO is targeting undecided and swing union household voters.

In the battleground states narrowly won by Bush in 2000, those voters could make all the difference.

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