Service Employees International Union is one of the biggest and most powerful labor unions in America. Naturally, it also has its hand in politics. In preparation for the 2012 election, the SEIU last week endorsed Barack Obama for president, this despite the fact that the GOP hasn’t even nominated a contender yet. The SEIU endorsed Obama in 2008, too, and it’s since been one of his biggest supporters.
With its latest endorsement, the union is also ramping up its political campaigning in another way: by reaching out to African-American and Latino voters. SEIU President Mary Kay Henry made the announcement today, according to reports:
The union, she said, plans to work with allied groups like the NAACP and the National Council of La Raza on what she described as “voter suppression issues.” SEIU is also planning to build, in her words, a “community infrastructure, both in African-American and Latino communities,” to educate voters on the issues and boost voter registration, two distinct and — for purposes of tax filings — decidedly separate components. The third goal by definition has a longer time frame: keep communities engaged passed 2012.
On the one hand, it’s hard to be mad at anyone for reaching out to minorities and attempting to get them politically engaged. The Black community is woefully out of touch with American politics, and anything to remedy that should be praised. That said, it also strikes me as unfortunate that they’re waiting until an election year to do this sort of outreach.
It’s hard to not be cynical when so many political organizations decide to reach out to Blacks and Latinos just before an election happens. How are we supposed to perceive it as anything but outright vote-grubbing? It shouldn’t be too much to ask that the SEIU — and the Obama administration, which recently started its own movement to court Black voters — not wait for election years to try and get African-Americans into their fold. We’re always here, and including us in the conversation well before you need our vote could gain our loyalty for good, so you’re not stuck desperately vying for our attention at the last minute.
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