On the Trail with John Kerry

802 is Labor Liason for Kerry's Campaign in NY

Volume CIV, No. 4April, 2004

Heather Beaudoin

For the first time in decades, New York became a focal point of Super Tuesday.

More often than not, the Democratic candidates are narrowed down to one frontrunner by the time March 2 rolls around. However, with John Edwards still holding a lot of momentum, even though John Kerry had won several states, New York became one of the priority states.

Once the AFL-CIO endorsement of Senator Kerry was imminent, Local 802 was privileged to help direct labor movement support for Kerry’s campaign in New York. This entailed working with the state AFL-CIO and the Central Labor Council on visibility and mobilization events in support of Kerry all around the state.

Two weeks before most elections, a campaign spends a lot of time organizing press conferences and endorsements, working to ensure that volunteers will be out on Election Day, and that supporters feel both utilized and appreciated.

These efforts were intensified when Senator Kerry visited New York twice.

First, Kerry came to York College in Queens for a town hall rally where Local 802 helped to ensure that labor leaders knew about and attended the event.

Then, after a rally in Buffalo, Kerry held a town hall rally in Brooklyn the last Saturday before Super Tuesday.

The purpose of these town halls was to elicit questions and comments from New Yorkers and to allow Kerry the chance to articulate his positions.

Local 802 also worked with the Central Labor Council the Sunday before Super Tuesday to help drive turnout and show support for Kerry at CBS Headquarters where a Democratic presidential debate was taking place.

The most important day of any campaign is Election Day and election days have become a powerful demonstration of labor’s strength and force. Throughout New York, the labor movement mobilized more than 70 percent of the entire volunteer base. Thousands upon thousands of union members appeared at area labor federations and central labor councils on Election Day to pick up materials reminding people to vote and encouraging them to vote for Kerry.

In the weeks prior, union members worked the phones, handed out literature, and conducted work site voter registration.

I spent Election Day at the Central Labor Council’s Manhattan site of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 3.

Labor coordinators arrived at 5:30 a.m. to send volunteers out to transportation and poll sites. By 6 p.m. that evening, 944 volunteers had appeared at that one site. Most of these volunteers were from Local 3 but there were many others from other unions including Local 802. The night ended with a victory party at the Central Labor Council’s headquarters symbolizing how critical labor was to Kerry’s win of 62 percent of the votes in New York.