32BJ ramps up its get out the vote campaign
Stephon Johnson | 10/29/2020, midnight
With just a few days until the election, members of 32BJ up and down the east coast are getting out the vote for Joe Biden.
Starting last Saturday, the cleaners, maintenance workers, airport workers and frontline health care workers rallied for presidential candidate Joe Biden and vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris in places such as New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Pittsburgh, Miami and Jersey City.
Social distancing throughout their ventures, workers rallied in Philadelphia and then canvassed for Biden and Harris. With many votes in this election coming from early voting, the union members canvassing on the east coast wanted to make sure that supporters sent in their mail-in ballots early and had hit the polls early if they were available.
According to union officials, 32BJ SEIU has registered 6,000 of its members to vote, sent 2.3 million texts into battleground states and made 997,673 calls to voters in Pennsylvania, a place that’s considered the tipping point for who will win the election.
32BJ President Kyle Bragg said the voice of the people is important now more than ever.
“President Trump’s failure on COVID-19 has turned it into a pandemic within a pandemic for Black people, where the racist systems in America that regularly fail Black people have become even less reliable,” stated Bragg. “Black and Brown people have died at disproportionate rates from COVID. The Black-white economic divide is now at levels not seen since the time of Jim Crow. There is so much at stake on November 3rd.”
Black and undocumented American votes can sway elections. Bragg said that no matter your background, everyone wants “jobs that pay a living wage, access to affordable health care and a brighter future for our children.”
In New York last week, workers held up signs such as “Blacks for Biden” and “Essential Workers for Biden” in the union’s continued efforts to get out the vote particularly with Black and Latino members.
Ardist Brown, a doorman in the Upper West Side, said they’ve volunteered for hours reaching out to voters knowing the importance of citizens speaking through the ballot.
“Many essential workers have been volunteering in their time off to make calls and send texts to fellow union members and other voters in states including Pennsylvania, Virginia and Florida,” said Brown. “I’ve volunteered to text over 10,000 voters over the past couple of weeks, because as a Black man I understand that our vote is essential to elect Joe Biden because he has a plan to care for the lives, the health and the livelihood of workers.”
With President Donald Trump’s administration issuing rollbacks of policies put in place by former president Barack Obama, some workers have seen their essential healthcare costs jump exponentially.
Nekia Burton, a Pittsburgh-based office cleaner and 32BJ member, is a single mother whose healthcare costs jumped from $30 a month to $180 because of the GOP’s slow dismantling of the Affordable Care Act. She said her son only needs two checkups a year and she’s surprised at how expensive it is.
“I have a good wage because of my union, and even I can barely afford it,” said Burton. “I can only imagine how hard it is for workers without union protection, and I really feel for them. We need a president who cares about everybody—not just wealthy donors and people who voted for him. Joe Biden is for protecting all Americans and making sure everyone has access to good, affordable healthcare.
“Biden’s policies will protect people with pre-existing conditions and a person won’t go bankrupt trying to pay their doctors,” concluded Burton.