by Cynthia McCabe | October 23, 2012
David Diaz, a Dade County trash collector and member of AFSCME Local 3292 (Council 79) makes phone calls to Florida voters. (Photo by Cynthia McCabe)
MIAMI – Now is when you make the choice to stand up for America’s working families and the middle class. That’s what AFSCME member David Diaz tells his colleagues, his neighbors and just about everyone else he speaks with these days.
Diaz, a member of Local 3292, is doing double-duty, volunteering with the union and with Pres. Barack Obama’s Organizing for America campaign. He’s knocking on doors and phone calls in any free hour that he’s not working as a Dade County trash collector. He is troubled by those who are so disheartened by the right wing’s attempts to crush workers that they are disinterested in political activism or even voting.
“My response is that they only do what you let them do,” said Diaz, a longtime Miami resident, taking a quick break from phonebanking Sunday. “When you don’t go out and vote, and you don’t go out and participate, what happens to you happens to you.”
What Diaz and other AFSCME volunteers in Florida are now focused on not happening to anyone are a series of harmful ballot amendments now before voters. That includes an amendment that would remove three state Supreme Court judges who ruled impartially and blocked Gov. Rick Scott’s attempts to subvert the law in his policies. It also includes a so-called taxpayer bill of rights that benefits large corporations who, coincidentally, do everything they can to avoid paying taxes.
The election is already under way here, with polling places open for early voting. Volunteers are encouraging residents to take advantage of early vote, given the aggressiveness with which voter rolls are being purged in the state, polling times reduced and validation requirements changed.
Voters can head to specific early voting locations, or to the Division of Elections office, or fill out absentee ballots from the comfort of their homes, avoiding lines. Such programs are under way in most states across the country.
For Diaz, the road to political activism began when he was 16 and a student at North Miami Beach High. He had just gotten his driver’s license when Florida Democratic political legends Sen. Claude Pepper and Gov. Bob Graham came and spoke to students. Diaz put his new license to work, driving voters to the polls. His activism continued when he joined AFSCME 15 years ago. Now he spends time talking about the importance of candidates who will support labor unions.
“I ask people ‘Do you have health insurance?’ ‘Do you work eight-hour days? The reason you have that is because of unions,’” Diaz says. “We forget what it was like before unions.”
Last night, he watched the debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney, which happened right here in South Florida, where he was raised. He saw further evidence that Obama is the clear choice for voters who support workers’ rights, the working middle class, women’s rights and progressive policies, in contrast to Romney. Then today it’s back to work, knocking doors and calling residents. There are 15 days left until the election and Diaz doesn’t have any time to waste.