This spring, the IBEW Local 1245 organizing program dispatched five teams of organizing stewards to central labor councils across our service area, to help get out the vote for pro-union candidates for both local and state offices.
In the Fresno area, 1245 coordinated two teams in the two weeks leading up to California’s Primary Election. The first team, which consisted of Miguel Pagan, Brittney Santana, PJ Saenz, Greg Simmons and Renae Mendez, hit the ground running during the last week of May, and the second team, comprised of Melissa Echeverria, Que Thompson, Ashley Finley, Gabrielle Baker and Teofilo Freeman, took over for the home stretch, up to and including Election Day. Both teams endured record heat as they went door-to-door in the far reaches of the valley to support labor-endorsed candidate Eddie Valero, candidate for the Tulare Board of Supervisors.
“We door knocked, dropped literature, and surveyed the most rural and impoverished areas of Cutler, Oros, and Woodlake. Most people who answered the door were very surprised that we were even out in their area encouraging them to vote for Eddie,” said Organizing Steward Melissa Echeverria. “The biggest victory and highlight is that Eddie took the lead and won with 56% of the vote and was able to dethrone a 20-year anti-union [incumbent]! It was truly inspiring to see how many people want to see change in their communities and took the initiative to get informed and get their vote in.”
In the North Valley, the Local 1245 team of Julie Gonzalez, Kristen Rasmussen, Rachel Ramirez and Aileen Zuehlke helped get out the vote for Assembly member Heath Flora, as well as Stanislaus Board of Supervisors candidates Tony Madrigal and Frank Damrell. For the past 20 years, this Board of Supervisors has consisted entirely of anti-union politicians, and previous attempts to flip seats have not advanced past the Primary – until this year. Both Madrigal and Damrell secured enough votes to advance to the general election in November.
“While we were out precinct walking, the four of us had great conversations with the candidates’ constituents. Everyone seemed to be appreciative of the work we were doing for them … A lot of people were also very optimistic about both candidates and seemed excited about having change happen in their communities,” said Lead Organizing Steward Julie Gonzalez. “Together, we knocked on close to 2,000 doors in three cities. We averaged 300 doors per day in Modesto, Salida and Stockton. I am extremely proud of my all-female team. They did an amazing job and hustled nonstop. Our hard work paid off with the end results!”
In Sacramento, the Local 1245 team of Nilda Garcia, Charlotte Stevens, Ivan Pereda, LaDrena Gunn-Swangin, Marissa Nagore, Vanessa Mejia and Alvin Dayoan helped get out the vote for Congressional and local City Council races, as well as Gavin Newsom for Governor and Tony Thurmond for State Superintendent. Their communities were among the first to participate in California’s newly implemented Voter’s Choice Act process.
“The Sacramento Central Labor Council got a van, and I was able to pick voters up from their homes and take them to the voting poles. Because of the Voter’s Choice Act, I was also able to pick up ballots from voters and turn them in on their behalf,” said Organizing Steward Ivan Pereda. “I got so much appreciation from people while driving for them, and they were so happy and surprised that we’d do a service like this.”
“We got to do phone banking, and I called this elderly woman who said she was in a car accident a couple years ago, and hasn’t been able to vote since, because she can’t drive,” recalled new Organizing Steward Marisa Nagore. “I let her know that we have a van and would be more than happy to pick her up to go vote, or just to get her ballot to drop off [at the new Voter’s Choice Act center]. When I told her that, she almost started crying.”
In the South Bay, the 1245 team of Alyssa Fernandez, Felicia Martinez, Brenda Balcazar, Megan Franco and David Ly worked tirelessly for pro-labor candidates in local races, including City Council and County Supervisor.
“I believe that the many hours of canvassing through the neighborhoods in the weeks leading up to Election Day had a huge impact,” said Organizing Steward Brenda Balcazar. “Not all the candidates we canvassed for made it to the general election, but I feel very proud to be able to participate in such an important part of the labor movement. It was not easy with the many miles we walked in many different neighborhoods for up to eight hours a day, but I would do it again in a second just because I see the benefit campaigns like this have on the labor movement.”
And in the East Bay, Local 1245 Organizing Stewards Arnaldo Lizarraga and Ruben Hernandez worked tirelessly over the final four days to get the vote out in Alameda County. They also participated on a Janus rally in Oakland on June 5, worked on advancing Measure A, and assisted with local races. Their hard work earned them special recognition from the Alameda Labor Council at their recent delegates meeting.
In addition to the extensive phone-banking and door-knocking that they did themselves, the organizing stewards were also tasked with recruiting their fellow 1245 members to volunteer to get out the vote over the weekends. Each team of organizing stewards hosted a volunteer kick-off on the Saturday before their assignments officially began, and upwards of 30 volunteers from Local 1245 gave up their weekend day to participate on their own time. A whopping 16 volunteers from 1245 attended the Sacramento kick-off, with some also bringing along their family members, and Sacramento Labor Council Executive Director Fabrizio Sasso recognized Local 1245 for turning out the largest number of volunteers at a labor canvass. In Fresno, 11 members volunteered their time on the Saturday before Election Day, braving the scorching-hot weather as they canvassed Tulare county to get out the vote for Eddie Valero.
“The work that our organizing stewards did goes a long way,” said 1245 Staff Organizer Rene Cruz Martinez. “Time and time again, Local 1245 continues to train and provide opportunities to our members to get more involved in local issues. We are proud of what our members accomplished, and are looking forward to the General Election this fall.”
–Rebecca Band, IBEW 1245 Communications Director
Rene Cruz Martinez contributed to this report.