Labor Hopes to Turn Up Voters at the Unemployment Office

Posted August 18, 2010 at 11:14am

Organized labor, in a bid to help Congressional allies in this fall’s elections, is trolling unemployment offices and job-training facilities for prospective voters.

Working America, an affiliate of the AFL-CIO that focuses on outreach to non-union workers, announced Wednesday that it was launching a campaign to organize and mobilize unemployed workers for the November elections.

“Obviously a lot of people are talking about enthusiasm and turnout. A lot of these people could be discouraged from voting this year because of the economy or their own personal employment situation,” AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale said. “Our message is, ‘If you are concerned about jobs, it is more important than ever that you vote in this election.'”

The union has deployed field organizers in a dozen cities with high unemployment rates who are assigned specifically to reach out to workers outside unemployment offices and job-training facilities. The campaign will also include house parties and a tele-town hall with unemployed people.

Vale said that while most of the lawmakers the union supports are Democrats, “it’s a race-by-race decision.”

Organized labor has been particularly angry at Republicans for trying to block extension of unemployment benefits, as well as opposing the health care overhaul, Wall Street reform, and “card check” legislation that would ease union organizing.

But Republicans also have made the stubbornly high unemployment rate a key issue in the election, arguing that the Democrats’ policies have failed to create jobs.

Rallying the unemployed is only one component of a major AFL-CIO push in advance of the elections. The union is working for federal and state candidates in 26 states. Vale said the union has not yet disclosed an overall campaign budget and has not yet run any television commercials.

“Right now our focus is on-the-ground operations,” said Vale.