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The Number That Really Matters: 35,000

Josh Sperry, Engineers & Scientists of California/IFPTE Local 20, walked precincts in Alameda with two of his children to spread the message of Yes on Prop. 30: California labor federation photos

This is a cross-post from the California Labor Federation’s blog, Labor’s Edge, by Communications Director Steve Smith.

We’ve seen a lot of big numbers this election. The Koch brothers' super PAC spent $4 million to back the deceptive Prop. 32. Billionaire Charles Munger Jr. kicked in $35 million against Prop. 30 and for Prop. 32. A shady Arizona group that refuses to disclose its donors funneled $11 million into our state to attack California schools and workers. But now, there’s only one number that matters: 35,000. That’s the number of union volunteers fanning out across the state, in communities big and small, to fight the big-money interests behind the attacks on Prop. 30 and the fraudulent ads backing Prop. 32.

The California labor movement has mounted its largest get out the vote effort in history this year, contacting millions of voters one on one about the stakes in this election. These volunteers aren’t members of the 1%. They’re everyday working people taking time in the evenings and on the weekends to improve their communities by standing up to the powerful special interests who have spent tens of millions of dollars this year in an effort to rig the system even further to their own benefit.

On Saturday, precinct walks and phone banks across the state were overflowing with volunteers ready to deliver a final message to voters about the importance of passing Prop. 30, which protects our schools from another $6 billion in devastating cuts, and defeating Prop. 32, a truly deceptive measure to silence working people while giving more power to corporate special interests.

In Sacramento, more than 200 volunteers were up bright and early to walk precincts across the region. California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski joined California Teachers Association President Dean Vogel and SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker at the Sacramento Labor Council to fire up the volunteers before they hit the streets. Volunteers were talking to voters about 30 and 32, as well as the importance of electing working family candidates like Dr. Ami Bera, Ken Cooley and others.

Pulaski told the crowd that while the billionaires may have deep pockets, it pales in comparison to the grassroots power of the labor movement:

We’ve got thousands upon thousands of workers across the state volunteering to get out the vote. And that’s going to make all the difference on Election Day.

Donchele Soper, a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E) employee and member of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, handed out packets to volunteers, helping get them prepared for the day’s precinct walks. She’s been working tirelessly alongside teachers, iron workers, machinists, home care providers and many others to get out the vote.

We need to all work together. It’s hard, long work but we know what a difference we make when we stand together.

Union volunteers in Burbank get ready for a day of precinct walking.

In Burbank, Paul Ahrens of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local 44 joined more than 100 volunteers at IATSE Local 80 to pound the pavement Saturday.

The only way we beat their money is people power. It’s so important for people who care about our state to come and have personal contact with those in our communities. This is crunch time and we’re going to get it done.

In Stockton, hundreds of volunteers hit the streets to get out the word on the dangerous Prop. 32 and in support of Prop. 30 and congressional candidate Jose Hernandez.

Volunteer Matt Richard, a member of Sheet Metal Workers (SMWIA) Local 104, said he wanted to do his part to stand up for all working people this election.

I’m here to help fight against the war on workers. I’m fighting for everyone to have a living wage, the right to retire and to live with dignity.

In Oakland, Ann Worth, member of Sign Display and Allied Crafts Local 510, joined the precinct walk because she understands the importance of talking face to face with voters:

If you can actually talk to someone you know that means a whole lot more than phone calls, fliers and robocalls. Door to door is the best, because people can relate to you and see who you are. Unions have the clout that they do today because we are out there, hitting the pavement and making personal connections so that we can establish a healthy discourse about important issues and build our communities along the way.

Josh Sperry, Engineers & Scientists of California/IFPTE Local 20, walking precincts in Alameda with two of his children to spread the message of Yes on Prop. 30:

Prop. 30 is incredibly important to me because already one of my kids is in public school and the other two are on their way there. If we don't pass Prop. 30,  the quality of schools will be decimated by the budget cuts. We love our school, we do what we can with the PTA but we need to stay funded.

Back in Sacramento, Vogel, Pulaski and Walker joined a phone bank at Sacramento City Teachers Association (SCTA), where dozens of teachers filled a crowded room phoning other teachers to get out the vote for Prop. 30. While the vote on 30 will be close, these phone calls, along with precinct walks and other volunteer voter contact, could prove decisive on Election Day.

Joe Barnett, a sixth-grade teacher in Sacramento, says phone banks are overflowing daily at SCTA, yet another signal that working people are galvanized to make the difference this year.

There’s been a phenomenal turnout. We’re getting people on a one-on-one basis to explain the deceptive nature of Prop. 32 and the value of Prop. 30 to our schools. We teach everyone’s kids. Doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor’s child or a janitor’s child, we want to give you the very best education possible. We recognize that working women and men need to come together to protect our own rights. If not, we’ll be overcome by the amount of money that’s going to the top. And as that money goes to the top, those at the top use it to buy even more political power.

The anti-worker billionaires, even with their incredible wealth, may have bit off more than they could chew in attacking workers and schools this year. The labor movement’s grassroots voter contact program is reaching millions of voters in-person to support Prop. 30 and defeat Prop. 32. And, as the billionaires, super PACs and corporate special interests are finding out, that’s something no amount of money can buy.

There is still time to volunteer to help get out the vote! Find a phone bank or precinct walk in your area.

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