Union voters made the difference
by Fred Gaboury Voters from union households cast 26 per cent of all votes in the presidential election. "Unions played a critical role, voted in unprecedented numbers and gave overwhelming support to Vice President Al Gore", AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, said at a post-election press conference. Sweeney said that in addition cutting into GOP [Republican] majorities in the US Senate and House of Representatives, the work by thousands and thousands of volunteers across the country on election day kept Colorado Republicans from capturing both houses of the legislature, defeated ballot measures calling for school vouchers in Michigan and California and "paycheck destruction" in Oregon. "Of course, it will be a tremendous disappointment if George W Bush finally wins in Florida. If that happens we will need to fight some tough battles", Sweeney said November 8, "but no matter who wins there is lots of unfinished work." Sweeney said the need to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, increasing spending for education and protecting the rights of workers to organise unions would be high on labour's legislative agenda in the 107th Congress. Pointing to the fact that corporations outspent unions by a 15-to-1 margin, Sweeney said it is time to "get corporations out of politics and give the country back those whose work make it great." Stewart Acuff helped lead the campaign in the battleground states of the AFL-CIO's 13-state Midwest region, where he serves as deputy director. "We increased our share of the vote in every state", Acuff told the People's Weekly World. "We provided 43 per cent of the vote in Michigan and were decisive in carrying the state for Gore and electing Debbie Stabenow to the US Senate. We mustered 30 per cent of the vote in Pennsylvania and took the state away from Bush." Acuff was particularly proud of helping to elect to the Senate Jean Carnahan in Missouri and Maria Cantwell in Washington. "Union members carried the torch of progressive politics everywhere. We blanketed precincts across the country with a door-to-door effort that was more comprehensive than anything we've ever done before." In the 1994 election, members of union families cast 19 per cent of the total vote. By 1996 and the "Labor '96" campaign, that number had increased to 23 per cent of the total vote. "Now we're at 26 per cent", Acuff said. "That means we turned out about 2.5 million new voters this year compared to 1998." American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees President Gerald McEntee, who joined Sweeney at the press conference, outlined the magnitude of the "Labor 2000" campaign: An army of 100,000 volunteers working in coalition with volunteers from the African-American and Latino communities distributing leaflets. More than 1,000 full-time coordinators assigned to the campaign with special emphasis on 71 congressional districts in 21 states. Assignment of an additional 500 get-out-the-vote coordinators in the days before the election. Distribution of 14 million copies of 750 different leaflets. Eight million phone calls. Twenty thousand volunteers walking the streets in New York, 6,000 in Philadelphia; 887 union members running for office.
* * *People's Weekly World, paper of Communist Party, USA.