Unions Assume Responsibility for Building a Base

Norberto Santana, Jr., of the Orange County Register reported on Saturday (and in Sunday’s dead-wood edition), Union drive enlists foot soldiers, about the efforts of local unions to increase the participation of working men and women in the political process.  The drive doesn’t involve phone banks, campaign signs, mailers, or speeches.  It’s simple, they are registering people to vote.

Norberto puts it this way in his story…

Voter registration drives help campaigns because they expand the pool of voters and the number who can vote by mail – creating a more reliable bloc of voters. Campaigns can also create voter lists they can use to develop mailers and target “get out the vote” operations on Election Day.

In the past, organized labor often funded such drives in connection with candidate campaigns, leaving the voter lists in the hands of the candidates.

Until now.

Nick Berardino, general manager of the county’s most politically active union – the 17,000-member Orange County Employees Association – leads the nonpartisan registration project. And without naming names, he acknowledges that the drive is the result of years of frustration with the voting records of many traditionally friendly elected officials.

“We appreciate the efforts of the elected officials,” he said. “But we feel that to ensure progress and security for working families, labor cannot depend on them, because their support has often waxed and waned with the political atmosphere.”

It’s a complaint that has resonated throughout union halls across the country for several years. Labor increasingly sees itself as a political mistress for elected officials, there to be courted but quickly abandoned once the polls close.

In 2004, those sentiments triggered a historic split within the AFL-CIO when the nation’s largest union, the Service Employees International Union, and several other unions left the longstanding labor coalition. SEIU President Andy Stern and the Change to Win coalition has since concentrated efforts more on local organizing efforts rather than the past emphasis of contributing to national political campaigns.

Last fall, Orange County labor leaders faced their own breaking point. Many seethed privately when they failed to garner endorsements for their chosen candidate for the 1st Supervisory District election scheduled this June. Promoting former state Sen. Joe Dunn, labor failed to garner endorsements from Rep. Loretta Sanchez, state Sen. Lou Correa or Assemblyman Jose Solorio.

Berardino called the Dunn episode “a tremendous disappointment and a clear indicator that labor cannot and should not be dependent on its friends, and must look out for and assume responsibility for advancing our interests and agenda.”

Called the Orange County Voter Information Project, an unprecedented union-sponsored drive that will keep working year-round to register voters in the county’s working-class areas. In seven months, the effort has eroded a Republican voter registration advantage established by a party-led effort several years ago in central Orange County. It’s also sending a message to the county’s Democratic elected officials that organized labor is no longer depending on them to reach voters.

Since October, the project has registered more than 3,200 voters and persuaded an additional 3,800 to switch their registration.

Since September, the Orange County Voter Information Project:

•Registered 3,259 residents.

•Changed 3,842 residents to vote by mail.

The project has registered:

•1,405 Democrats.

•964 as Decline to State.

•220 Republicans.

Speaking solely for myself, I’m pleased that labor organizations accross the county have chosen to be on the front line in the effort to register new voters who have felt that their involvement in elections doesn’t matter. I’m tired of labor simply being an ATM machine for foot soldiers and money that candidates and elected officials only care about us around election time.

I hope you will take the time to read the complete article from the OCRegister.

  6 comments for “Unions Assume Responsibility for Building a Base

  1. March 9, 2008 at 7:11 pm

    Why did they target the 69th AD? They should have targeted the 68th – and gone after Van Tran. Why doesn’t your party want to take him out? He is only THE most corrupt Republican in Orange County. And he wants Loretta’s seat. I don’t know why your party hates Janet Nguyen so much when Van Tran clearly is the bigger threat…

    As for Berardino and his union lackeys, they ought not be sore about losing Dunn. He never should have been your candidate in the first place. The last thing we need in central OC is another white lawyer candidate. But Pulido has damaged all the council members in Santa Ana, such that none of them are deserving of higher office.

    Try this instead…take back the Santa Ana school board. Drive out the bad Dems and remaining Reeps and develop GOOD Latino and Vietnamese candidates. Then prepare them to take over for Solorio and Correa when they term out.

    No more white lawyers in Central OC! Basta con Umberg and Dunn. They had their time in the sun.

    BTW, it is just disgusting that Berardino backed Dave Shawver against Moorlach. Yes, I know Moorlach has issues, but Shawver is a Mexican hating Reep. Please, if nothing else, I urge the unions to stay out of races if they don’t have a good candidate.

  2. March 9, 2008 at 7:56 pm


    It is comforting to know that you still don’t know what you’re talking about.

    The Voter Information Project has targeted central Orange County. That includes the 69th, and 68th Assembly Districts, the 34th Senate District, the 47th and 40th Congressional Districts and the First District of the OC Board of Supes.

    On your blog you have tried to paint the Orange County Employees Association as anti-Latino. You are wrong, but that has not stopped you from spreading your B.S. around town. I really like your racist (anti-white) rhetoric though.

    Apparently you feel that because someone is white they should be disqualified from seeking office in the First District. But you feel it is alright for a Vietnamese individual to represent the First District. Your “logic” fails to recognize the fact that the Vietnamese population of the First District is outnumbered significantly by Caucasian and Latino voters.

    Everyone should have equal opportunity to seek office regardless of their ethnicity. To claim otherwise makes you the racist.

  3. March 9, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    I’ll be happy to take political advice from Art Pedroza if he ever manages to win an election.

  4. March 9, 2008 at 8:18 pm


    I’m so glad I didn’t get this job! I have enough controversy in my life without having conflict with some of the most popular elected officials in the county. Interestingly, I believe I didn’t get the job because I mistakenly made a partisan comment in my interview, even though I wittily recovered by saying, ‘I’m a uniter, not a divider,’ after which laughter filled the room. I guess being new to the area, I didn’t realize that unification here is easier said than done.


  5. PSU Rifa
    March 9, 2008 at 9:31 pm

    What is your obsession with the Santa Ana school board? Are you aware that unions typically only support candidates or issues that directly effect their members? The only unions that have interest in school board elections are those that represent teachers or classified employees. Oh and I think that characterizing Moorlach as simply “having issues” is absurdly simplistic. Moorlach is the single biggest threat to working families in this great state of ours.

  6. Bladerunner
    March 9, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Nice post Chris and a good article. Labor needs to do some of its own labor to neighbor communication rather then rely on the Democrats or elected Democrats to do that. And the Democrats need to diversify their fundraising portfolio so they are not so dependent on labor to pump up their campaign accounts.

    The reality is that both labor and the Democrats will continue to work together on a number of matters out of necessity if not choice. But both groups will become stronger by getting out of the house. And maybe next time they can avoid the spot they got in on the 1st S.D. seat this year. Communication, of course, is a good thing and a 2 way street.

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