Virus or no virus, Service Employees and allies to mobilize 3 million voters
Union janitors who are members of SEIU Local 87 in San Francisco. | SEIU

WASHINGTON—Coronavirus or no coronavirus, the Service Employees and three other progressive organizations rolled out a $30 million campaign to register and mobilize three million new voters—women, people of color, and union members—for the fall election.

But the pandemic, which has killed over 92,000 people nationwide as of this writing and sickened over 1.5 million in the U.S., has forced changes in the way SEIU, Color of Change, Planned Parenthood, and Community Change Action will tackle the task.

The Win Justice Campaign, similar to one SEIU and Color of Change ran in the 2018 midterms, aims to register and ensure those millions of people vote in four states considered key to the presidential result: Florida, Minnesota, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Helped by GOP voter suppression schemes in 2016, then-nominee Donald Trump narrowly won Florida and Wisconsin. He narrowly lost Minnesota and was trounced in Nevada.

“Working people, whether on the frontlines of this public health crisis or struggling in this economic crisis, are more engaged in politics now than in any election in our lifetimes,” SEIU President Mary Kay Henry said in a statement. “Working people are making their voices heard loud and clear in this election that we must protect all workers—especially after being asked to risk their lives by going to work without protective equipment or hazard pay.”

The campaign, Henry said, will concentrate on “deep engagement with Black, brown, and Asian-Pacific Islander voters.”

Its key point, she added, will be that “we can’t return to normal” after the pandemic ends, and that means electing leaders responsive to people and not to the 1% and the chasm of inequality they created “long before” the coronavirus hit, and which the pandemic amplified.

“We rewrite the rules, rebuild the economy based on workers’ power, and reinvest in communities,” she declared.

Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes, the reproductive rights group’s political arm, said the campaign “will be multilingual and lean on trusted community messengers to mobilize voters, including a robust virtual organizing effort that includes phone, text, mail, and digital, as well as paid advertising on TV, radio, and digital platforms.”

It’ll also emphasize “reaching the communities who have been targeted by the Trump and silenced by this administration and the people in power—from voters of color, to immigrants, to young people, to women. Enough is enough: While our country’s health care needs continue to rise in the face of a global pandemic, it’s time for the politicians who attack our health care and our reproductive rights to lose their jobs.

“Sitting on the sidelines is simply not an option.”

In the past, the four organizations, especially SEIU, have relied heavily on face-to-face, door-to-door voter registration, organizing, mobilization, and get-out-the-vote efforts. With social distancing and quarantining likely to still pervade society during the runup to the November balloting, that will partially change, Miranda Margowsky, spokeswoman for the coalition, e-mailed.

“We’ll combine digital tools with traditional methods to connect with these voters,” she explained. But those “traditional methods” will have new wrinkles, too: “In-person field organizing if health officials deem it safe,” more phone calls, personalized postcards rather than mass mailings, and, where they can, “one-on-one conversations,” coalition leaders said.

When the people of color, workers, and young people vote, “they consistently vote for more progressive candidates and policies,” including for climate justice, comprehensive immigration reform, social, economic and legal justice, and women’s rights said Color of Change PAC spokesperson Rashad Robinson in a statement.

“Real and consistent efforts to incorporate these voters and their specific voices into policymaking and politics would not only make our communities more just and equitable, but also shift power to the people that are too often overlooked.”

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CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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