October 2015

Ironworkers Take Action!

November 3 is Election Day in many states and cities across the United States. This is the day that determines whether government projects get built by union labor, whether safety standards rise or fall, and whether private projects get the green light or get buried in red tape. On November 3, we need to get out and vote. But Election Day isn’t our only chance to take action. One thing you can do right now, wherever you are, is get out and volunteer for a pro-union candidate.

Volunteerism is the lifeblood of the labor movement. Knocking on doors or making calls helps sway others to action. It helps fight back against the power of corporate money in politics. Unions can’t match the outrageous sums of money that ultraconservative SuperPACs pour into elections, but we can beat their manpower. Ironworkers especially, with our work ethic and organization, can punch above our weight when it comes to political mobilization.

Here are some ways to get active this election:

✔ Reach out to your fellow ironworkers. Local unions need to communicate with member ironworkers throughout the election season, and could use some help. Offering to lend a hand with calls or mailings is appreciated, and helps get the job done quickly. Our union can only be as strong as our members are active.

✔ Go to labor walks and phone banks. Many central labor councils (CLCs) organize events where union volunteers reach out to other union members and their families about the coming election. The messenger is just as important as the message, so labor-to-labor communication is very effective. Learn new skills and meet people from different unions who share the same goal. Labor is much more powerful when we work together.

✔ Volunteer with a candidate’s campaign. Union volunteers can get a candidate elected, but we won’t have much clout if the candidate doesn’t know about what we did. Volunteering with campaigns directly keeps us visible while we do our work. Wear an Iron Worker shirt or pin, and make sure they know you belong to the union. Turn out in groups if possible.

✔ Turn out to rallies. Candidates use rallies to get publicity for their campaigns. If we turn out with Iron Worker shirts, signs and banners, we get publicity too. Organize a group to make yourself more visible, and make sure someone in the group is prepared if there is an opportunity to talk to the press.

✔ Talk to friends and family. They may not carry a union card, but members of our families and communities have just as much to lose if an election goes bad as we do. Talk to them about why this election matters to working people, and help them get out and vote. Organize a house party or happy hour to talk about a candidate, or just deliver your message in personal conversations.

Here are some ways to be an effective volunteer:

✔ Show up. Ninety percent of success is just being there. Showing up makes the event possible, and showing up on time helps it go smoothly.

✔ Don’t be intimidated. Speaking to strangers about politics is a skill. Don’t be ashamed if you haven’t learned it yet. Ask for help and training from event organizers if you haven’t done it before. Also, don’t worry if you don’t know every fact and detail about the candidate or issue. Voters don’t expect policy experts to come to their door, and will respond best if you just be yourself.

✔ Be friendly and helpful. Give new volunteers a hand learning the ropes, and give feedback to the event organizers if you see a way that the next event can be improved.

✔ Recruit friends and family. Surveys show that the majority of ironworkers are willing to volunteer with the union, but they often aren’t asked. Ask a fellow ironworker if he or she will go with you to the next volunteer event. This goes for family and friends from outside the union, too. Bringing someone along makes the experience more fun, and lets you reach twice as many people.

✔ Take pictures! Show off the volunteer work you’ve done at walks and rallies. Post them on social media and share them with the local and IPAL at ipal@iwintl.org. Candid shots of volunteers at work are best.

✔ Keep coming back. Experienced volunteers make the whole operation run smoother. By coming back after your first event, you provide the leadership needed to help volunteers who come out for the first time.