Teamsters in Arizona and Missouri spent the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s primary election in both states using revamped tools to reach out to members encouraging them to vote for worker-friendly candidates, a continuation of efforts that started this spring in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
And it worked, again!
In Arizona, Teamster members took advantage of vote-by-mail to cast their ballots from the safety of their homes and came through for Teamster candidates. All told, 67 of the 72 candidates endorsed by Local 104 emerged victorious, capping a month-long effort by the local. Two members worked as political field organizers (PFOs) to reach some 5,000 Arizona Teamsters via phone and text in advance of the election, encouraging them to support candidates at the local, state and federal levels. The union also held five virtual candidate events, giving members the opportunity to hear directly from state and congressional candidates.
“Tuesday was a complete win-win for the Teamsters,” said Dawn Schumann, Local 104’s political coordinator. “The labor movement in Arizona is very strong, stronger than ever. We made it through these challenges.”
And in Missouri, eight PFOs from four local unions across the Show Me State made 11,500 calls and texts to members in the final two weeks leading up to vote, asking them to back candidates who support the interests of hardworking Missourians. Supporting candidates that would stand up against another effort to institute so-called right to work was seen as a top issue.
Shawn Berry, a UPS driver and Local 688 member, said he was glad to be able to participate in the effort from his southeast Missouri home. “Despite living in a rural part of the state, the Teamsters’ phone and text program allowed me an opportunity to talk to my union brothers and sisters,” he said. “I was happy from the member calls I had to make a connection.”
Voter outreach efforts have been turned on their head due to COVID-19. While Teamsters would normally be at worksites leafletting and talking to their fellow union members, that isn’t possible now. So the union has used methods old and new, like phone banking and texting, to communicate with Teamsters about the issues and where the candidates stand. The union has also beefed up its use of social media to get the word out.
Taken all together, it has produced a successful approach to educating and activating the membership around important issues and endorsed candidates. So what does it mean for the Teamsters going forward?
“We get to rest today, celebrate our victories and understand our losses,” Schumann said Wednesday. “And tomorrow we get up and fight for the general election.”