Oregon AFL-CIO unfolds ambitious 2000 political plan

The Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board has approved an ambitious 21-point political action plan that focuses on the basics of organizing the union vote this May and November. At stake are not only control of the White House and Congress, but also the potential for pro-worker majorities in the Oregon House and Senate and labor-friendly candidates in statewide posts such as secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general.

"The goal for our Labor 2000 program, first and foremost, is to turn labor's 21 percent share of the registered voters in Oregon to 25 percent of the votes cast in the general election," said AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt.

To do so will require a massive voter registration effort among the one-of-five union members and their family members who are not registered to vote (about 60,000 new potential voters) and an even more ambitious effort to get union members to cast ballots.

More than 160,000 registered voters from union households did not vote in the November 1998 election, Nesbitt said.

"If half of them had voted in that election, we would more than doubled our margin of victory over Sizemore's Measure 59 and we would have gained at least three additional House seats for pro-worker candidates," Nesbitt said.

Bill Sizemore, executive director of Oregon Taxpayers United, sponsored a "paycheck deception" initiative last year that voters narrowly defeated. He is planning to send a similar measure to the ballot this year.

Because this year all elections will be conducted by mail, new tactics are required to make sure voters cast ballots.

"People will no longer go to the polls, so our get-out-the-vote (GOTV) effort will be an ongoing campaign," said AFL-CIO Political Director Steve Lanning. "We'll have to turn out union voters in larger numbers than ever before."

Nesbitt said as a group, union members vote less by mail as compared to the general public. "We must organize the union vote more effectively than we've ever done in the past," he said.

He said the state labor federation is coordinating its GOTV efforts with independent unions such as the Oregon Education Association, Oregon School Employees Association and Oregon Nurses Association.

To assist affiliates, the Oregon AFL-CIO is making available to all unions in Oregon contact lists of union members who are listed as not registered to vote, and voter registration materials with which to make contact and sign up these members at worksites.

The state labor federation is asking all local unions to appoint Labor 2000 coordinators and have those coordinators contact Lanning to obtain voter registration lists and materials to complete an AFL-CIO capacity survey. It is asking unions to help distribute and collect issues surveys at worksites and to attend Labor 2000 coordinators meetings and a statewide political issues conference slated for Saturday, Feb. 26.

January 7, 2000 issue

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