We in the labor movement have lots going on at Yearly Kos, as we seek to join forces with the netroots, share strategies and find common ground in reaching an agenda we all can agree upon: Creating a progressive America. Friday, I described one of the workshops we're taking part in at Yearly Kos, Bread, Blogs and Roses. Here's another one I hope lots of you can take part in.
Working America: Slugging it Out with the Christian Right for the Hearts and Minds of the Working Class. Friday, Aug. 3. 10:30–11:30 a.m.
Is it possible to turn card-carrying members of the National Rifle Association who identify with the Christian right into voters who cast ballots for populist candidates like Sens. Sherrod Brown and Robert Casey?
Working America answers with a resounding YES! Not because the organization is a bunch of hopeless idealists, but because they have done it—again and again and again. And together with the AFL-CIO's political program, which will be highlighted at this panel by AFL-CIO Assistant Political Director Mike Podhorzer, labor's 2008 mobilization efforts promise to be bigger and better than ever—and one of the key factors in ensuring our country's progressive future.
Working America, a community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, was created in 2003 to harness the power of workers who don't have a union on the job, and now includes nearly 2 million members. Since it launched, Working America has reached out to communities in states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. Each evening, canvassers go door to door, meeting individually with residents and discussing with them issues like the need to raise the minimum wage, protect overtime pay and ensure affordable health care.
During the 2006 elections, Working America canvassers made 2,225 live door contacts per day in key swing congressional districts (CDs), signing up hundreds of thousands of new members—and educating them about why pocketbook issues need to take precedence at the ballot box over such socially divisive issues as abortion or gay marriage.
The canvassers are young, committed and enthusiastic, like Greg White, who talked with Bill McFadden in Beaver County, Pa. McFadden was so impressed by White's sincerity and knowledge of the issues that he called Working America's office and told a staff person he was:
...a registered Republican, that the 2nd Amendment was his No. 1 issue, but that his conversation with Greg actually made him rethink who he wanted to vote for in both the [Bob] Casey and [Jason] Altmire races. He said nobody else ever came to his door before to talk about these issues, and he was so impressed by what we were doing and how we were doing it, that he just had to let us know. He said, "I'm not a huggin' kind a man, but I wanted to give that guy a hug by the time we were done talking," and that he wouldn't mind having somebody like Greg for his neighbor.
These contacts get results. In Ohio's CD 6 primary in May 2006, a last-minute push by Working America's 78 canvassers helped propel a write-in victory for Democrat Charlie Wilson—and Wilson's write-in votes surpassed the total for Ted Strickland (now the Democratic governor) for the same seat in 2002. Also in spring 2006, Working America recruited 7,500 new members in Pennsylvania's CD 19 in two weeks—tripling the labor program's reach and electing a Democrat in that district for the first time in 100 years.
There's a big online component to this work as well, and Max Toth, online strategy guru at Working America, will be at the workshop to describe the organization's e-mail outreach, online activism and online member services, including the free Ask a Lawyer program and the annual Bad Boss Contest. Karen Nussbaum, Working America director, and Tahir Duckett, who recently came to Working America after directing Democratic National Committee fundraising canvass efforts in Atlanta, also will be on the panel.
Our good buddy Cliff Schecter, who has worked with Working America in getting out word about all the great programs the organization offers, will discuss his role as blogger and activist, and the importance of labor connecting with the netroots, and vice versa.
Find out more about how we're moving toward a progressive America by educating voters and mobilizing them to make a difference at the polls—and help give us tips as well—at Slugging it Out with the Christian Right.
More in coming days on what other workshops we're holding at Yearly Kos.
In the meantime, I can't wait to see everyone at Yearly Kos and meet all the great people here who have supported us over these past months.