$150 million is a lot of money...


Which is why it's strange that almost three weeks after the Service Employees International Union announced that they'd spend precisely that amount both to swing the elections they're targeting and to support a massive mobilization to push for health care reform and the Employee Free Choice Act in the first 100 days of the new administration, not a single major news organization has written about that decision. In fact, nobody's really written about it all, unless Lab Law Weekly's decision to reprint the press release counts.

I'm not entirely shocked that such a big number has slipped between the waves. As David Simon and others have pointed out, the labor beat frequent falls on the non-essential list, unless you live in a city like New Haven, where labor is still an essential element of the political system. I do some labor reporting, and can testify to the fact that even in Washington, it's not a crowded beat. And in an election where even vaster fundraising numbers are getting tossed around on a daily basis, I can see a lot of scenarios where a lot of folks decided this particular $150 million wasn't newsworthy.

But it matters not least because SEIU is one of the first organizations to explicitly lay out a post-election plan. I've written elsewhere that this election is one to watch because many unions, not just SEIU, are trying to develop strategies that will keep their members mobilized, and will help boost organizing drives and win contract fights.

Two elements of SEIU's plan caught my eye: the commitment to involve a million members, 200,000 of whom would have leadership positions, and the development of round-the-clock activism centers, operating in multiple languages, to serve those members. Those centers, if they're advertised effectively, and depending on what resources they have, could play a huge role in activating communities of folks who rely on public libraries for internet access, and who may not have access to good non-English language newspapers. And the commitment to engage that many members speaks to an ambitious internal organizing plan. It's worth watching--and writing about.