WASHINGTON (AP) — Unions are gearing up to spend more than $400 million to help re-elect President Barack Obama and lift Democrats this election year in a fight for labor's survival.

Under siege in state legislatures around the country — and fearing the consequences of a Republican in the White House — union leaders say they have little choice as they try to beat back GOP efforts to curb collective bargaining rights or limit their ability to collect dues.

"People are digging deeper," said Larry Scanlon, political director of the country's largest public workers union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "If Republicans take over the presidency, Congress and enough state legislatures, unions will be out of business, pure and simple."

Scanlon's union was the biggest overall spender in the 2010 midterm elections, doling out about $93 million to help state and federal candidates, mostly Democrats. This year, AFSCME is expected to spend at least $100 million or more on political action, including television advertising, phone banks and member canvassing. The effort is to help the president, Democrats running for the House and Senate, gubernatorial candidates and key state lawmakers.

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