I was recently lucky enough to tag along with UNITE HERE’s members who are doing GOTV for Obama in Wisconsin. Nationally we have 335 members on leave from their jobs to do election work so far. I went to Wisconsin for a few reasons—to get an understanding (rather than a guessing) of why the blue collar voters the media was so convinced would support McCain were dropping him, because it’s such a great example of a populist swing state where unions like UNITE HERE have a huge impact and because McCain’s campaign there has shifted from campaigning to attempting to block the vote (h/t TC MITS).
Our Wisconsin program is seriously impressive—a big part of the reason why is the people involved. We are knocking on the doors of members of Change to Win unions-- from Teamsters to our own members and telling them how Obama supports working families. On weekends our teams are volunteering with the Obama campaign too. Their dedication is incredible. Here are some stories from the road:
Ivelesse Gonzalez is a dynamic shop steward at Resorts International Casino and Hotel in Atlantic City. She’s been working as a Lead in UNITE HERE’s Wisconsin canvas since the start of September and has earned the nickname "The Human GPS" for her ability to navigate neighborhoods far from her New Jersey home.
Ivelesse is also a first time voter.
"I just saw an abyss of political promises before this election. But I was given the chance to go to Ohio to hear Obama speak and I was so inspired. It just comes out—everything he speaks about pertains to me as an individual. Obama speaks about unions, jobs, healthcare, everything that touches me on any level he talks about it. Obama said it in his DNC speech "it’s not about me, it’s about you"
Ivelesse said she was struck with how much Obama reminds her of the John F. Kennedy she sees on the History Channel. Now, Ivelesse is making history by helping to lead one of our campaign teams. Wisconsin has same day voter registration-- awesome I know. While door knocking, Ivelesse met a young woman who told her that she is about to become a citizen and is registering to vote that very day because it will be so meaningful to her as a new citizen.
Which makes me wonder—how will first time voters be received at the polls in Wisconsin? Look, we’re a union. We aren’t new to this stuff. Change to Win unions have notified local boards of elections to expect a huge increase in voter turnout and be prepared to handle it. We are encouraging early voting in Wisconsin so that any problems with a person’s registration can be addressed in time. The voters we talk to will know to have the right ID, will follow every rule to a "T" and they will not be afraid. These are union families. That’s just one of the benefits of being part of a movement that’s about empowering regular people.