by Carol Freeman
The strategic goals of MN AFL-CIO Labor 2018 were building volunteerism and improving volunteer retention; strengthening union affinity; and electing a working families champion to be the next Governor of Minnesota. A benchmark was for each MN AFL-CIO affiliated union to fill work shifts that are equal to 1% of their active and retired membership – the 1% goal.
In addition to the above, goals for the Retiree Council were to increase voting by retired union members and increase the number of active retired union members across the state. State Retiree Election Work Coordinator Carol Freeman began work in February and convened an Election Team to plan and coordinate retiree work in the Labor 2018 Campaign.
We worked with RLF and ALC officers, staff, and retiree leaders to engage and recruit retiree volunteers. We worked with RLF’s and ALC’s to identify retirees who would lead their retiree effort in their area. These leaders would help build a group of retirees in their area who would join in the activities. They would connect retirees to events – social, issue advocacy, rallies, and campaign events. If an ALC or RLF provided a stipend for a retiree leader(s), the State Retirees Council would match an amount up to $1500. This effort resulted in three stipends being paid to three ALC’s – the Northeast Area Labor Council, the St. Paul Regional Labor Federation and the East Central Labor Council. There were retirees active in other ALC’s & RLF’s who did not accept a stipend or received a stipend from their union.
We also communicated and worked with our affiliates and other retiree groups to learn about their campaign work and to cooperate whenever possible. The campaign work efforts included two special elections, legislative session member-to-member contacts, regular election cycle work, campaign schools and Safety Net Workshops.
Any retiree who volunteered was credited with one shift toward their union, AND that shift also was counted on the MN State Retiree Council’s overall shift contribution.
Critical for effective retiree volunteer recruitment was designing tasks and work circumstances appropriate for and attractive to retirees. Examples included afternoon phonebanks, virtual phone banking from home, doing prep and paperwork for doorknocks or driving rather than actual door knocking, and writing postcards. Our performance:
Special Elections for SD 54 and HD 23B: Election February 12, 2018
Retirees completed about 35% of the phone bank shifts in the SD 54 labor-to-labor campaign. Karla Bigham is now the Senator keeping the seat Democratic. Retirees also completed significant phone shifts (probably over 30%) for Democrat Melissa Wagner running for HD 23B though she did not flip this seat which stayed Republican. Retirees also helped with door knocks for the SD 54 Karla Bigham campaign.
2018 Elections Conference – February 15-16, 2018
We set a goal to have 50 retirees attend the MN AFL-CIO 2018 Elections Conference, an effort assisted by financial subsidies from the AFL-CIO and the State Retiree Council. Retirees attending were at least 44, perhaps more.
Agenda items included workshops on organizing and worker issues including health care, right-to-work, freedom messaging, social media activism, and volunteer recruitment. A forum with gubernatorial candidates answered questions. A retiree breakfast program focused on our own participation in Labor 2018.
2018 Legislative Session Member-to-Member Program: March 5 – May 5, 2018
This work aimed to serve as a soft-launch for Labor 2018, test messaging, weed out bad phone numbers and addresses from our lists, identify and recruit volunteers and activists, and grow the MN AFL-CIOs email and texting programs. There were a variety of voter contact tactics including phonebanks, doorknocks, email, earned social media, and paid digital content. On doors and phones, there were 1,554 conversations with Union families. Retirees provided 124 of the recorded 354 shifts (that’s 35%).
Campaign Schools across the State – July 11 – August 22, 2018
The Minnesota AFL-CIO held regional Campaign Schools throughout the state to train union leaders on the Labor 2018 program. Retiree Council volunteers made 661 phone calls and talked with 145 people recruiting attendees. Unions and ALC retirees did additional recruiting.
The two best attended campaign schools were (1) the July 25 State Retirees Campaign School with 50 retirees attending, and (2) the August 22 St. Paul and Metro Area Campaign School with 57 people signed in. Though we do not have recorded the exact numbers who attended the campaign schools, probably 225-250 members attended with 65-70 retirees included in this number (again an impressive 25-30% of the total).
Safety Net Workshops: Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
Workshops were held in 2018 for the St. Croix Women’s Alliance in Stillwater, for nurses in Mankato, for the Minneapolis Retirees to introduce the presentation and to encourage affiliates to have it shown at their meetings, for AFSCME Retirees, for SEIU Retirees, and for a Coon Rapids community event. Perhaps 150-200 people participated in Safety Net Workshops.
Labor 2018 MN AFL-CIO Election Program: August 20 – November 6, 2018
Statewide Retirees Phonebank
A major piece of the 2018 Retirees Election Program was to telephone retirees around the state using the Virtual Phone Bank. The St. Paul RLF, Minneapolis RLF, and the State Retiree Council set up daytime retiree phonebanks.
The results were a total of 16,253 dials made during the six rounds on the final phone bank. Dials by MRLF retirees = 7299; by SPRLF retirees = 6534; at the State Fed by State Retirees = 1687; by SEALC retirees = 436; NEALC retirees = 259; and WALC retirees = 38.
Retiree Calls for Transition to Getting Out the Vote (GOTV) Activities
Starting November 1, retirees made phone calls to all union members statewide who had done at least one volunteer shift during the 2018 Labor Program. There were 1014 volunteers in the Virtual Phone Bank, and there were 1246 dials made, 469 conversations had, 346 messages left, and 224 wrong numbers deleted.
Retiree Postcards Program
At the start of Labor 2018 Program, there were over 700 precincts around the state that only vote by mail because of the distances they would need to travel to a polling place. Retirees focused the postcard program on union members in these precincts. Many people helped write over 3000 postcards.
Phones and Doorknocks with ALC/RLF Programs
Retirees also played important roles in phonebanks and doorknocks that were part of the ALC/RLF Programs. Doorknocks focused on contacting retirees were not practical as people would be spread too far apart, so retiree doorknockers joined all the other volunteers to do two rounds in prioritized areas. Retirees recruited retirees especially for the statewide Days of Action on September 8, September 29, October 13 and October 27.
MUCH WORK DONE BY MANY RETIREES. WE CAN BE PROUD AND HAPPY!!