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December 26, 2006

Labor Helps Voters Connect the Dots

Working America is a program of the AFL-CIO that reaches out to working people either not unionized or retired and helps them see the importance of good governmental policies for their lives.  Whoa!  Is that smart or what?  Here's the description they post on their site:

With the combined strength of nearly 9 million union men and women and millions of nonunion workers who share common challenges and goals, we fight in communities, states and nationally for what really matters—good jobs, affordable health care, world-class education, secure retirements, real homeland security and more.

And we work against wrong-headed priorities favoring the rich and corporate special interests over America’s well-being.

This organization, which they call a community affliate, combines community organizing with professional research, communication and education.  Their efforts paid off handsomely in the November election.

According to a post on firedoglake by guest blogger Tula Connell, election night polling by Peter D. Hart Research Associates revealed that 80% of Working America members who hadn't voted in 2002 voted in this election.  And, 80% of those new voters chose Democrats in the Senate races vs. 20% for Republicans and 77% chose Democrats in their House races vs. 23% for Republicans.

Here's how they did it:

Since it was created in 2003, the organization has signed up more than 1.5 million members—and has done so by sending canvassers door to door, day after day in middle- and working-class neighborhoods where people are hungry to become part of a dynamic movement in which they can take action and make a difference.

Working America enables workers who do not have the benefit of a union on the job to join forces with 9 million union members in the AFL-CIO to work for good jobs, health care, retirement security and more.

The majority of Working America members identify themselves as politically moderate  (54 percent), and 32 percent own guns. But when Working America canvassers come to their doors and discuss how the policies of the Bush administration affect them and their families, they make the connection—and divisive social issues like abortion and gay marriage that may have impacted their vote fade when compared with the benefits of voting your pocketbook.

Today's post focused on a contest the organization ran asking people to write in about "Bad Bosses" this summer.   More than 2500 employees submitted their stories about their bad bosses.  The post provides brief stories about several of the entries, including the winner:

The winning entry described her boss as a millionaire dentist who, because so many patients canceled appointments on Sept. 11, 2001, took the money he would have made that day out of his employees’ paychecks.

In the process of allowing people a place to vent and share their stories, the Working America folks helped their readers connect the dots as to why they are in such powerless positions in the first place.

Economist, author and commentator Julianne Malveaux pinpointed the real story behind bad boss behavior. Co-author of Unfinished Business: A Democrat and A Republican Take on the 10 Most Important Issues Women Face, Malveaux was among guest panelists commenting on Bad Boss entries:

When people talk about their bosses, they are really talking about imbalances of power, the absence of civility, and a disrespect for working people that is reflected in the fact that the average CEO makes more than 800 times as much as a minimum wage worker. Lots of folks have good jobs with good pay, but an increasing number have good jobs with good pay and poor working conditions.  The numbers suggest that the job market is healthy and robust.… The stories that people tell about the way they work are discordant notes in the gleeful song of prosperity and success.

Working America encourages members to join in an online community where they regularly vote on the issues that most concern them.  In addition, members get free workplace advice; they have access to databases of information on the health and safety records of 250,000 employers; and they can see where jobs from their communities have been outsourced.   

I like it.  Nice combination of old-fashioned organizing and good use of the new media.

Posted by Lynn Allen on December 26, 2006 at 10:24 PM in Strategery | Permalink


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