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PEP May 2014
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Public Employee Press

Labor faith activists gear up for elections


Members of the union outreach program come together to plan a get-out-the-vote strategy.

"In this anti-union culture in which we live, it is essential to grasp that unions are rooted in the right of free association" — Father Mark Hallinan

Labor, Faith and Community Outreach Program participants from DC 37, AFSCME District Council 1707 and the Civil Service Employees Association came together April 7 to continue their ongoing campaign of building ties with faith-based communities of various traditions.

The New York City area activists planned a get-out-the-vote campaign to strengthen labor's hand in the primary elections for the U.S. Congress on June 24, the state Legislature on Sept. 9 and on Election Day, Nov. 4.

They also geared up to get involved in the 50K Strong drive of DC 37's national union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which aims to sign up as members 50,000 public service workers who are paying agency fees but are not union members.

"In this campaign we are building the union from the inside to make it stronger," said John English, AFSCME's area field services director. As many as 800 volunteer-member organizers will be recruited to sign up the new members. He said, "We need everyone on board to protect our hard-won benefits and fight for livable wages and comprehensive immigration reform."

"We'll all be without jobs if we don't work together," said CSEA Local 100 President Lester Crocket. Central to the coalition program was the overview a priest, a rabbi and an imam provided of the views and traditions of the Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths on relationships between their communities and labor.

"Unions are indispensable for the universal common good," said Father Mark Hallinan of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church on Staten Island. "In this anti-union culture in which we live, it is essential to grasp that unions are rooted in the right of free association."

Imam Samer Alraey explained that in the Islamic tradition work is seen as a form of worship and generosity expressed through tithing is emphasized.

Rabbi Michael Feinberg, executive director of the Greater NY Labor-Religion Coalition, said that in the Jewish tradition, "Our covenant is not just with God, but with all people," and there is a responsibility to bring people "out of the margins of society and into the center."

AFSCME Regional Communications Coordinator Kevin Hanes gave participants guidelines on shaping and delivering an effective message. He cautioned against using political jargon and said, "We have to speak to the values, beliefs and self-interests of our members."

To help get the vote out, the activists planned to visit churches, mosques and synagogues during the weekends leading up to the elections.

"It's important for the union to reach out to the community," said Tracye Hawthorne, a member of Local 1549 who works as an Eligibility Specialist II in Long Island City.

The program will hold its second orientation and advanced training session at DC 1707 at 420 West 45th Street (between 9th & 10th avenues) on May 12 from 5:30 p.m. - 8:15 p.m.
"Our goal is organize around common challenges that we face not only in the workplace but in the community," said DC 37 Executive Director Lillian Roberts.

To get involved, visit www.dc37.net or call 212-815-1550.

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