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AFL-CIO steps up get-out-the-vote effort

By Deirdre Walsh, CNN Congressional Producer
  • The union's president wrote a pair of letters to members
  • The mailings this week will go to 10 million members
  • The letters contend the GOP will privatize Social Security and send jobs overseas

Washington (CNN) -- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has a blunt message for labor union members: Get to the polls next week, because "as bad as things are, they can get a whole lot worse."

As part of a massive get-out-the-vote operation, the labor federation is sending out 10 million personalized letters from Trumka as a final mailing to its membership Monday. Enclosed with each letter is a detailed "slate card" tailored to each member. It lists all of the state-wide candidates endorsed by labor, as well as the candidates for the House of Representatives and the state legislature. The card includes the person's polling place and information about what kind of identification they may need to bring.

Trumka penned two letters Monday, each with a different message, which the union's spokesman called "the most sophisticated [get-out-the-vote] mail program the AFL-CIO has ever done." The union uses "micro targeting" analysis to pinpoint the issues union members care about and that, in turn, determines which letter they will receive.

In one version, Trumka warns his members that if the Republicans win control of Congress they will privatize Social Security, send jobs to China, cut off any future extensions of unemployment benefits and let insurance companies take away health care coverage. The letter closes by saying, "get mad and do something about it."

The other personalized letter from Trumka echoes the message President Barack Obama and Democrats have focused on over the past few weeks: undisclosed outside money is fueling an onslaught of television ads and distorting the records of pro-union candidates.

This letter links the foreign money theme with the Democrats' other message on the economy: that big businesses are planning to outsource U.S. jobs. Trumka writes, "The same foreign companies that are stealing American jobs are now trying to buy our American elections."

Including this mailing, the AFL-CIO has sent out 28.6 million pieces of political literature this midterm cycle.

The labor federation also has call centers in 26 states that have high union membership and competitive congressional and statewide races. For example, in Ohio, there are 17 call centers where members are contacting fellow labor workers urging them to vote a week from Tuesday. Volunteers are leafleting work sites and doing neighborhood walks to encourage people to turn out.

While the AFL-CIO is not funding television ads on behalf of candidates, its largest member, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Workers, is putting tens of millions of dollars into ads.

A spokesman for the AFL-CIO declined to give a figure for how much the get-out-the-vote effort is costing, saying the organization doesn't want to give away any information to the other side about the extent of its efforts.