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White House Ally Takes Key Labor Job

Saunders' win means a giant union open its war chest for the president. Public workers looking to recover after a long Republican assault.

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The giant, embattled public workers union AFSCME elected its Secretary-Treasurer, Lee Saunders, as its next president after a bitter election that focused in part on whether the union should play aggressively in presidential politics.

An official familiar with the results in the union's convention tonight in Los Angeles said Saunders won in a "blowout," though the results are not yet public.

Saunder's rival, the president of New York's CSEA, Danny Donohue, had suggested refocusing the union's resources away from federal elections. Saunders, by contrast, is an avid Obama supporter who is "even more firm" about backing the president than the retiring incumbent, Gerald McEntee.

UPDATE: Saunders says in a statement:

We had a vigorous and energetic campaign, but now the union will pull together to win victories for working families and our members all across this great country. We know that Wall Street and their allies are engaged in an all-out assault against our members and the services we provide. They know that AFSCME stands in the way of their efforts to destroy the middle class. We are united in our commitment to stand up for the men and women who care for America's children, nurse the sick, plow our streets, collect the household trash and guard our prisons. Our members are a cross-section of America, not some elite group as our opponents try to claim. We are energized and ready for the battles ahead.

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