Norberto Santana, Jr.,Ã‚Â of the Orange County RegisterÃ‚Â 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.Ã‚Â The drive doesn’t involve phone banks, campaign signs, mailers, or speeches.Ã‚Â It’s simple, they are registering people to vote.
NorbertoÃ‚Â 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 Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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.
Nick Berardino, general manager of the county’s most politically active union Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the 17,000-member Orange County Employees Association Ã¢â‚¬â€œ 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:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Registered 3,259 residents.
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢Changed 3,842 residents to vote by mail.
The project has registered:
Ã¢â‚¬Â¢964 as Decline to State.
Speaking solely for myself, I’m pleased that labor organizations accrossÃ‚Â 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 anÃ‚Â ATM machine for foot soldiers and money that candidates and elected officialsÃ‚Â only care about us around election time.
I hope you will take the time to read the complete article from the OCRegister.