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A Toast: To Union Volunteers and the 2008 GOTV

This mailer from the Communications Workers of America is among a wide range of union fliers, local TV and radio ads and other media outreach.

The election numbers are in and the winner is….

America’s working families.

Even before the Nov. 4 results are tallied, the nearly yearlong election mobilization throughout the union movement is a victory for the thousands of union volunteers who have dedicated their scarce free time in get-out-the-vote efforts. Without them, we could not have reached the millions of union members critical to reversing the misery of the Bush years. These volunteers, and all the union members they reach, join with many other communities—especially our compatriots in the progressive blog world—in helping create a future we can be proud to pass on to our children.

We’re now entering the "Final Four," when our get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts reach maximum intensity.

Beginning Saturday, tens of thousands of AFL-CIO volunteers will visit more than 3.9 million union households, make 5.5 million calls and distribute more than 2 million leaflets at worksites through Election Day urging union voters to get to the polls in support of working family candidates on Nov. 4.

As in 2006, a key part of this year’s Final Four push is Working America, the AFL-CIO community affiliate for workers without a union on the job. In the final four days, Working America will send out 1,000 full-time canvassers in 11 battleground states to knock on more than 300,000 doors. Working America’s effort tops off a year-round campaign aimed at engaging its 2.5 million members, many of whom are Independents and moderate “Reagan Democrats,” on economic issues—and who previously have been contacted in campaign season only through their memberships in the National Rifle Association and evangelical institutions.

The amount of outreach we’ve done in the past year is hard to quantify, but here are a few stats from our overall GOTV program:

  • A 21-state presidential battleground program. In recent weeks, we’ve shifted to non-traditional battleground states like North Carolina, Indiana and West Virginia, while maintaining an intense effort in the top-tier states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan.
  • AFL-CIO union voters have received 70 million phone calls, 10 million door knocks, 57 million pieces of mail and 27 million worksite fliers focusing on economic issues.
  • 4,000 paid staff working on the AFL-CIO mobilization nationwide.

Our top three officers have covered the map, attending worker roundtables, joining in rallies and knocking on union doors. The schedule they’ve kept up for months would kill lesser mortals (like me).

We’ve fielded communications people in key states, and while keeping the local media stoked, they also launched blogs to fuel the grassroots momentum—such as in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Indiana and Colorado.

AFL-CIO constituency groups are doing critical outreach among minority communities.

  • The Asian Pacific American Labor Association (APALA) is targeting infrequent Asian American voters through phone banking, mailers on ballot initiatives, anti-worker and anti-immigrant issues and voter protection, especially in Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Seattle and Virginia. 
  • The Coalition of Labor Union Women (CLUW) launched a Count to 5! program that includes speaking to co-workers, friends and family about working women’s issues.
  • The Labor Council for Latin American Advancement (LCLAA) is targeting Latino voters nationwide through GOTV programs and many members will poll workers on Election Day, with others providing on-site translation and information on voter protection at the polls in target precincts.

Members of the A. Philip Randolph Institute (APRI), Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU) and Pride At Work (PAW) are phone-banking and providing grassroots organizers in key neighborhoods to ensure we get the vote out and see to it that every vote is counted.

Through our Lawyers Coordinating Committee (LCC), union lawyers have volunteered their time, some using vacation days since this past summer, to work in communities vulnerable to voting rights abuses. The work by LCC lawyers is part of our My Vote, My Right voter protection program to address voting rights abuses in conjunction with affiliated unions to prevent voting rights violations on Election Day. This past weekend, we launched radio spots on voter protection taped by popular stars like Greg Mathis and Ludacris with Edward James Olmos taping English and Spanish versions for both markets.
We’ve run phone banks from the AFL-CIO here in Washington, D.C., since the first week of September, and with Northern Virginia on the other side of the Potomac pond, we’ve been visiting union households there, and plan to knock on 27,000 doors between now and Election Day, with the assistance of more than 1,100 volunteers.

It’s impossible in one blog to convey the enthusiasm from the field, which has not waned for these many months, as clear by the ongoing deluge of blogs, photos and videos we receive. And it defies the printed word alone to show all of the hard work and strategic planning behind the thousands of actions that make up the union movement’s GOTV.

So, here’s a toast to all the union volunteers who believe we can make a difference—and put their time and talents to making it happen.

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Tula Connell

Tula Connell