Union Members Will Use Expanded Movement to Further Working Family Agenda
“Every Vote Must Be Counted”
Election Day exit polling and an independent national survey show that union members turned out in huge numbers to vote on Tuesday, and they voted for Senator John Kerry by 65 percent compared to 33 percent for President Bush. Union households accounted for 1 out of 4 voters and there were 27 million union household voters. In 2004 as in 2000, union households provided a 5.8 million vote advantage for the Democratic candidate for President, according to NEP exit polling. The survey was conducted for the AFL-CIO by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc.
AFL-CIO leaders said the unprecedented grassroots participation by working men and women in the “biggest, most unified labor program ever” will generate gains for working families. “No matter who is in the White House, we’re going to take that energy, momentum, technology and field operation and start right now building a movement that will keep turning this country around,” said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney.
“Yesterday’s election was breathtakingly close,” continued Sweeney. “There is clearly no conservative mandate for our nation. People want government action to keep good jobs here instead of policies to ship them away. They want to strengthen retirement security instead of privatizing Social Security. They want to work with employers and states to bring down health costs and expand health coverage.”
According to the Hart Research polling, members cited jobs and the economy, the war in Iraq and health care as among their top issues. The research showed that an impressive 92 percent of union members heard from their unions during this election cycle, and 81 percent heard from unions at least three times. Union members in Ohio voted for Senator Kerry by 67 percent to 31 percent for Bush.
More than 5500 full-time staff or union members worked in battleground states – up from 1500 in 2000. The numbers of full-time staff or union members in only three states in 2004 - - Ohio (728), Pennsylvania (723) and Florida (514) - - exceeded the total number nationwide in 2000.
Over 225,000 volunteers participated in the Labor 2004 program. Union members knocked on more than 6 million doors in neighborhood walks that have been running daily in many states since Labor Day. Volunteers made over a hundred million phone calls and passed out more than 32 million leaflets at workplaces and in neighborhoods - - including more than six million in Ohio alone. Union members reached out at 257 phone banks with 2322 lines running in 16 states. The AFL-CIO’s program sent out more than 30 million pieces of mail to union households - - and this does not include mailings sent by affiliate unions to their members independently.
“The union movement’s political program is one that is built to last, said AFL-CIO Political Chair Gerald McEntee. “The nurse who phone banked for the first time in her life this week or the meat packer who passed out leaflets on this job have become activists - - they are part of a team who will be ready and willing to come out again.”
“Through our political program, we have invested in our future,” said AFL-CIO Political Director Karen Ackerman. “More unions than ever participated on a large scale in the AFL-CIO’s coordinated program. We have now set the stage to bring working family friendly candidates into office throughout the nation.”
One of the union activists who drove this program was Lori Chlopecki, an inside wireman, mother, and member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Over the last few months, Lori has made hundreds of phone calls at a union member phone bank and volunteered for walks as part of Labor 2004. “This election is personal and it's about the future for our children," said Chlopecki at an AFL-CIO press conference today in Washington, D.C.
For the first time, huge numbers of union members from non-battleground states - - like California, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts - - traveled to swing states to make sure that the union vote was mobilized.
Working America, the AFL-CIO’s new national organization for working people, played a key role. Working America has 750,000 members, and is in touch with a total of 1.1 million members of working family households, offering information on where the candidates stand on such key issues as jobs, health care and overtime pay. In Ohio, for example, Working America reached out to 578,000 household members. That is in addition to 1.2 million “traditional” members of union households in Ohio -- meaning that nearly two million Ohioans got information and a mobilization appeal from the union movement this year.
The AFL-CIO’s non-partisan voting rights project, “My Vote, My Right,” began forming community partnerships over the summer which met with elections officials, educated voters, and recruited and trained poll watchers. On Tuesday, thousands of poll watchers at 850 high risk polling places watched for voting rights violations.
In addition to walking and phoning, union members used a variety of creative events in this campaign, including “pink slip events” in Florida, Oregon, Washington and Arizona where hundreds lined up along highways holding pink slips for President Bush. In Michigan, union activists dressed up as a milk carton with a slogan reading, “Missing: My Job.” In Oregon and Washington, they held a lemonade stand touting the “middle class squeeze.” Union women nationwide held letter writing parties for other women in swing states. In Ohio, six cities held simultaneous GOTV rallies last week.
The AFL-CIO is the umbrella organization for America’s unions, representing 13 million working men and women nationwide.
Contact: Lane Windham, Suzanne Ffolkes, Sarah