Image: Obama
EMMANUEL DUNAND  /  AFP/Getty Images
Sen. Barack Obama at Carnergie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, June 26, 2008.
updated 6/26/2008 1:06:34 PM ET 2008-06-26T17:06:34

The AFL-CIO endorsed Barack Obama for president Thursday, uniting the nation's 15 million union workers behind the Illinois senator and giving him full access to labor's massive bank accounts and political machinery.

As expected, the leaders of the nation's largest labor organization voted unanimously to endorse the Illinois senator, freeing the organization and its 56 unions to spend parts of its $200 million war chest on his campaign.

"We're proud to stand with Sen. Obama to help our nation chart a course that will improve life for generations of working people and our children," said John Sweeney, the AFL-CIO's president.

The endorsement has been expected since Obama's main Democratic primary rival, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, dropped out of the race and endorsed Obama. The AFL-CIO stayed neutral but allowed its unions to endorse individually during the primary. A dozen of its unions supported Clinton.

Gerald McEntee, president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was one of Clinton's top union supporters. He's also the AFL-CIO's political committee chair.

"We'll work our hearts out for Barack Obama," McEntee said. "Our program is going to be worker to worker and neighbor to neighbor. We're ready to mobilize. We're ready to rock and roll. This country and our people are ready for change."

The AFL-CIO already has been campaigning against Republican nominee-in-waiting John McCain, but now will start promoting Obama's candidacy to its 10.5 million members and their families and friends.

The AFL-CIO's chief rival, the Change to Win labor federation, already has endorsed Obama.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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