The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 04, 2016

Campaign 2016: unions ramp up for final political push

By The Building Tradesman

By Mark Gruenberg

PAI Staff Writer

With the Nov. 8 election just around the corner, the nation’s unions are ramping up their final political push to contact members and their families, canvass hard in key swing states and elect worker-friendly officials up and down the ballot.

And it’s not just for Hillary Rodham Clinton, either.

With Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, apparently widening her lead over GOP business mogul Donald Trump, workers and their allies are hitting the hustings to lock in her victory, but also campaigning in down-ballot races, too – from senators and governors to local ordinances and city councils.

“Pay attention to the presidential, Senate and congressional races,” Graphic Communications Conference/Teamsters President George Tedeschi advised in the latest Graphic Communicator. “Compare the candidates. Don’t get distracted by side issues – the kind politicians use to divide the country and unsettle the electorate.

“Be a solid citizen, proud American and responsible union member. Vote. No excuses,” he declares.

The effort to ensure that outcome starts at the top, with the AFL-CIO and Change To Win, along with individual unions.

The AFL-CIO, leading the national drive, set a goal of having 100,000 volunteers knock on a million doors between mid-October and Election Day, federation President Richard Trumka said. It planned to send 424,000 pieces of direct mail – with at least 67,000 in Florida alone – and 1.4 million cards telling voters which candidates stand with workers. Other top states are Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“This is the peak of our political program. Together we will elect Hillary Clinton as the first woman president, and work with her administration to rewrite the economic rules so that working people can get ahead and stay ahead,” Trumka explained.

But the AFL-CIO mailers also hit Trump: In Florida, for example, they note he refused to hire U.S. workers at his Mar-A-Lago resort. 

CTW unions both joined the AFL-CIO-led crusade and campaigned on their own. The Service Employees, one of two big CTW unions, particularly targeted Spanish-speaking voters, both in ads and on the ground. Many of its own members are Hispanic-Americans.

But labor campaigners are also urging voters to look beyond Clinton and Trump. “Politics matter, our votes matter,” Philadelphia security officer Karen Bond told SEIU. Her state is both a swing state in the presidential contest and has a close U.S. Senate race which could help tip the upper chamber of Congress back to pro-worker officeholders.

Trump and incumbent GOP Sen. Pat “Toomey don’t care about working people. Trump says wages are ‘too high’ and they both oppose raising the minimum wage. They can’t relate to what I go through every day. Hillary Clinton, and candidates for Senate and other offices like Katie McGinty” – Toomey’s Democratic foe – “are in my corner, fighting for me. That’s why I am showing up to fight for them!” Bond said.

Besides the ads and the ground game, other unions joined the Labor Action Network (LAN), which sorts out potential voters and tailors messages to them, the Road Sprinkler Fitters Local 669 and the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters report.

“The LAN is a secure voter file system that tracks the voting habits and histories of AFL-CIO union members,” they explained. “It allows us to do specific targeting to reach the members who we need to reach while excluding those we do not.  In other words, it helps us work smart and efficiently.  

“By using the LAN, we can create contact lists to be used for phone banks, door-to-door canvassing, and mailings.  Most importantly, we can target specific groups of voters… We can also contact voters most and least likely vote. By being able to separate different voters into different groups, instead of calling every member, we can target only members who need to be contacted. We can tailor messages that will be most effective for that specific group.”