Shaping the future rather than just waiting for it
Written by Rebecca Band, Photos by John Storey
“Every vote counts.”
This old adage took on new meaning for the 65 organizing stewards and activists who attended IBEW 1245’s Campaign School at Weakley Hall on March 5.
Assistant Business Manager Ray Thomas kicked off the training with a real-world example of how elections (and especially local elections) directly impact our members when it comes to bread-and-butter issues.
“During the last city council election in Redding, our best pro-worker City Council member lost to a Tea Party extremist by just eight votes,” Thomas said. “And that electoral loss directly impacts our City of Redding members during bargaining; they no longer have that ally across the table on the City Council.”
When races like the one at the City of Redding are being decided by a handful of votes, there’s no doubt that IBEW 1245’s 20,000 members can make a real difference in election outcomes. And it’s not just public sector workers who have a stake in those outcomes. When extreme anti-worker politicians gain office, they are quick to attack workers’ rights in both the public and private sector. Union members have learned from bitter experience that anti-worker politicians can chip away at workplace protections, outsource jobs, slash funding for vital services and decimate the already-struggling middle class.
“These politicians are the people who ultimately make the decisions about laws that impact your working conditions, wages and benefits,” said IBEW 1245 Business Rep Hunter Stern as he underscored the importance of electing politicians who will stand up for working families.
“There are lots of places where it’s tough for labor-friendly candidates to get elected, and knocking on doors can be difficult and tiring. But we do it for the well-being of our members, our communities and the people we serve. We need these local boards, Irrigation Districts and City Councils to represent us and actually do the people’s work,” Stern said.
He detailed some of the most important political races for IBEW 1245 members this year, and encouraged those in attendance to actively seek out potential candidates for these key local contests.
The day-long campaign school, facilitated by Lea Grundy and Tracy Zeluff of Groundworks Campaigns, focused on providing activists with the skills they need to lead a volunteer army and make a difference on Election Day. Participants got a chance to practice important communications skills for “talking politics” with potential volunteers and voters. They also learned the nuts and bolts of voter targeting and contact, as well as best practices for volunteer recruitment and management.
Participants left with a newfound sense of political power, armed with tactics suitable for political campaigns as well as future organizing and solidarity efforts.
“I came to this training because it seemed like a good opportunity to sharpen my skills,” said Tina Jones, an IBEW 1245 member who works at PG&E in Hayward and has volunteered on campaigns in the past. “I’m looking forward to bringing the skills and message points I learned today back to other up-and-coming shop stewards who couldn’t be here, so that they can in turn pass it along to their co-workers, and family, and neighbors and everyone they talk to.”
Political action is one of the primary components of IBEW 1245’s organizing renaissance, which aims to foster a culture of volunteer organizing and develop future activists and leaders. In 2012, the union was recognized by the California Labor Federation for outstanding volunteer activism in the successful campaign to defeat Prop 32.
With a new election season on the horizon, IBEW 1245 members and organizing stewards will soon have another shot at shaping the future rather than just waiting for it.
Get involved with a political campaign in your area by contacting your Business Rep or an Organizing Steward.