In his Senate career, Reid has prized the issues of traditional labor Democrats, pushing for the maintenance or expansion of basic social programs like Social Security and Medicare before ushering health care reform through the upper chamber last year.
Angle, coincidentally, is just the kind of small-government candidate labor is fighting hardest this election cycle. Paring down Social Security and Medicare? Both are policies Angle supports, and both are policies unions are fighting hard against.
"Sharron Angle doesn't know the first thing about how to get America back on track," Trumka planned to say Tuesday night. "She called jobless workers 'spoiled.' She apologized to BP after the oil spill! She dreams of dismantling Social Security. She doesn't understand unemployment, the housing crisis, or why America needs a minimum wage."
(Angle didn't actually apologize to BP--though she did say the government shouldn't be forcing BP to pay into an escrow fund--but no matter. The union members in attendance probably caught Trumka's drift.)
As a consequence of all this, labor sees Nevada as a critical race to keep up its agenda in the Senate.
"If we're going to keep our champion," Trumka said, "We've got to fight for him."
And labor's votes could make the difference.
In this extremely close race, with polls conflicted on who leads and, regardless, showing those slim leads within the margin of error, there are enough union members in Nevada to change the outcome next Wednesday, depending on whether they turn out--and whether they actually vote for the candidate their labor leaders support.
The AFL-CIO estimates over 150,000 union members, retirees, family members, and members of the affiliated non-union organization Working America in Nevada--all of which are contacted by the AFL's political program--including members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW), which are working with the AFL-CIO to urge members to vote for Reid.
Union members made up 14 percent of the vote in Nevada in 2006, when Sen. John Ensign won his re-election bid, according to CNN exit polls. Another 10 percent of voters lived in the same household as a union member, meaning 24 percent could have seen mailers from unions urging them to vote Democratic.
If labor is to sway the vote in Reid's favor, it will have to convince its own people to support him, which means Trumka's visit--on top of the pro-Reid leaflets unions are delivering to worksites--will be important. Especially in an election climate that threatens to suppress Democratic turnout and give the GOP an advantage with working-class voters.
Union voters should be reliably Democratic. In 2006, Ensign's Democratic challenger, Jack Carter, enjoyed a 17 percent advantage among Nevada union members but only a two percent advantage among non-union members of union households--a demographic labor counts on in using its political program to deliver votes and volunteers. Ensign, meanwhile, enjoyed a 24 percentage-point advantage among non-union members who don't live with a union member.