By STEVE PEOPLES
AP National Political Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) — One of the largest U.S. labor unions is announcing plans to spend $150 million on a nationwide campaign to help defeat President Donald Trump, a sweeping effort in Wisconsin and seven other battleground states.
The investment marks the largest voter engagement and turnout operation in the history of the Service Employees International Union, which claims nearly 2 million members. The scope of the campaign, which was started quietly last month and will run through November’s general election, comes in response to the sense of urgency that many feel amid what union president Mary Kay Henry calls “a make-or-break” moment for working people in America under Trump’s leadership.
“He’s systematically unwinding and attacking unions. Federal workers rights have been totally eviscerated under his watch,” Henry said in an interview. “We are on fire about the rules being rigged against us and needing to elect people that are going to stand with workers.”
The union and its local members will pay particular attention to two key urban battlegrounds they believe will play a defining role in the 2020 general election: Detroit and Milwaukee. There may be some television advertising, but the emphasis will be on direct contact and online advertising directed toward minority men and women.
Few groups of voters will be more important in the 2020 general election. Trump won the presidency four years ago largely because of his popularity with working-class whites and a drop-off in turnout from minority voters.
The union’s political director, Maria Peralta, noted that Trump’s campaign has been working effectively in recent months to win over some minority voters, particularly men, who have traditionally voted Democratic.
“He’s going after our communities in ways that are pervasive. We’re deeply aware of that,” Peralta said. “They’re talking about the strength of the economy.”
The Service Employees International Union, like the Democratic Party and its allies ,is faced with significant headwinds in its fight to deny Trump a second term. Voters who may dislike his job performance are generally pleased with his leadership on the economy, and unemployment for black Americans has hit record lows in recent months.
At the same time, Trump’s campaign is far ahead of where it was four years ago, when it had little national organization.
On Wednesday, the Trump campaign announced plans to open 15 “Black Voices for Trump Community Centers” in battleground states and major cities, including Michigan and Wisconsin. The offices will have a line of campaign swag adopting the “woke” label, and videos of prominent Trump surrogates like online stars Diamond and Silk explaining their support for the president and pamphlets outlining the president’s record.
SEIU is the most diverse union in the United States. The union’s membership features those who work in health care, food service, janitorial services and state and local government workers, among others. Half its members are people of color, and more than half make less than $15 an hour.