Block-walks, Phone Banks, Mail, Social Media Fuel Turnout
Houston, TX – Members of labor unions in Texas took advantage of a changing Texas political climate to help build winning progressive coalitions in Harris County, Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation Executive Director Hany Khalil said today.
“Labor unions helped put victorious candidates over the top by running a multi-pronged ground campaign in which union voters heard about the importance of voting for candidates backed by the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE),” Khalil said.
The AFL-CIO campaigned heavily for Mary Ann Perez for House District 144; county-wide candidates Kim Ogg for District Attorney, Ed Gonzalez for Sheriff, and Anne Harris Bennett for Tax-Assessor Collector; Anne Sung for HISD District VII; and to defeat HISD Proposition 1.
“The national picture was bleak, but in Harris County, working people made advances on Election Day,” Khalil said. “Unions knocked on 19,987 doors, sent mail to 14,028 households, and had 7,751 personal conversations with union families in Harris County. We were also pervasive on social media in calling for voter turnout.”
“In 2016,” Khalil said, “we focused on driving up turnout of members who did not have a history of voting regularly. If you were a union member in the Gulf Coast area, you very likely heard from us several times, and we have long known that member-to-member communications highlighting a working families message are effective in turning out votes. Two-thirds of the 6,000 union members who voted early in Harris County were ones we targeted for turnout and may have accounted for a large share of the 7,855 votes that made Ann Harris Bennet our new Tax-Assessor Collector.”
“Union members alone cannot form a majority, but in the Gulf Coast area in 2016 we spoke up together with allies to show it is possible to build a winning coalition here,” said Zeph Capo, President of the Area Labor Federation. “We are celebrating a strong result while resolving to continue our efforts to build a better Texas.”
Texas AFL-CIO President John Patrick said the labor movement’s Get Out the Vote operations in and around Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and other parts of the state helped bring about a sea change from the results of the 2014 election, Patrick said.
“This election marks a new era in coordinated campaigning for labor in Texas. The Dallas and Tarrant County Central Labor Councils (CLCs) worked together on block-walks of mutual interest. The Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation covered ground that used to be covered by several CLCs. The entire labor movement arrived at priorities in cooperative fashion.”
“We appreciate the thousands of volunteer hours put in by union members around the state. The labor movement knocked on at least 50,000 doors and made many more phone calls and mail contacts during the campaign. On social media, the labor campaign generated more than half a million impressions across several platforms, all in service of turning out union members, family members, and allies. What we did this year laid solid groundwork for the future. We honor our affiliates who worked overtime to take our Get Out the Vote program to the next level.”
“The conversations we had with union members were not merely about candidates,” Patrick said. “From the minimum wage to paid sick leave, from improving public education to equal pay for men and women, issues that affect our workers’ everyday lives took precedence. The candidates we endorsed were on board with our agenda to provide a fair shot for every working family.”
“Labor’s vote made a major difference in Texas. Amid a tragic national result, Hillary Clinton’s performance here, coming within a margin we have not seen lately, set the stage for pickups in congressional, legislative and local races around the state,” Patrick said. “Union members seized on the opportunity, and we are proud the 2016 election set a new standard for statewide union participation.”
The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO is an umbrella organization that coordinates the political, community, and educational programs of 45,000 union members in 13 Gulf Coast counties.