The AFL-CIO endorsement gives Meek access to the union’s grass-roots political machine, which helps raise money and turn out voters on Election Day.
“We’re going to do everything we can to make sure Kendrick Meek wins,” AFL-CIO President Mike Williams said.
Meek, a U.S. House member from Miami, is in a primary race against Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene and former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferre.
The winner will advance to a high-profile, three-way race against Crist and expected Republican nominee Marco Rubio.
Crist tried to steal the labor endorsement from Meek, but teachers, a powerful voting bloc within the union, split their support between the two and opted to avoid a fight with other unions that supported Meek.
The AFL-CIO, which claims 500,000 members, avoided taking sides in the competitive Democratic primary for Florida attorney general between state Sens. Dave Aronberg of Greenacres and Dan Gelber of Miami Beach.
Aronberg’s campaign hailed the outcome as a victory after preventing Gelber from receiving the full endorsement. But Gelber’s team said the decision turns the fight into a battle for support from local unions.
In the Democratic state Senate primary between Rep. Kevin Rader of Delray Beach and Peter Burkert of Fort Myers, the AFL-CIO endorsed Rader.
Meek may have sealed the endorsement with a rousing speech Saturday that defended his pro-labor record and cast doubt on Crist’s sincerity on union issues.
“My entire life I have stood alongside the hardworking men and women of this state who are building up what others have tried to tear down,” Meek said Sunday in a statement. “I am proud to have hardworking Floridians and their families stand with me.”
Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said losing the endorsement was a “huge blow” to Crist.
“Florida’s labor leaders and working families saw this weekend Crist is nothing more than a typical politician who will say or do anything to win,” Jotkoff said.
Crist’s campaign declined to comment.
Jotkoff dismissed as media hype the idea that Crist’s independent campaign could attract Democratic support.
But recent polls show much of Crist’s support coming from Democrats.
The Florida Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union and a traditional supporter of Democrats, issued a dual endorsement for Crist and Meek.
Crist endeared himself to teachers by vetoing Senate Bill 6, which would have ended teacher tenure.
“SB 6 energized teachers and parents throughout the state and Crist’s actions showed so many Floridians that their voices count,” FEA President Andy Ford said. “An independent Charlie Crist working for Floridians would also be a great asset in the Senate.”