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Why November Matters

Political involvement is a critical part of addressing the challenges we face as workers, union members and citizens.

By Lee Saunders
President Saunders
President Saunders

This is a defining moment, not only for our nation but for our union. Throughout this issue of WORKS, we’re talking about just how important this moment in history is for us. The priorities we set and the plans we carry out will determine whether collective bargaining is protected, retirement security is restored, public services are strengthened, and the American Dream survives.

Our success hinges on our ability to grow our union, because we cannot win the fights of tomorrow unless we grow today. Here’s what we must keep in mind: Our ability to organize is tied directly to our involvement in politics at all levels. When we have local, state and federal laws that support workers’ rights, public service workers can organize and improve their own lives.

Re-Electing President Obama

Given what’s important to us, our top priority is re-electing President Obama because he is the best choice — the only choice — to uplift working families. I’ll give you one quick example of why.

Last year, Presidential candidate Mitt Romney went to Ohio to support Gov. John Kasich’s union-busting law. He volunteered at a phone bank and said he was “110 percent” behind Senate Bill 5, the legislation to strip public service workers of their bargaining rights. By contrast, President Obama said: “Let’s certainly not blame public employees for a financial crisis that they had nothing to do with, and let’s not use this as an excuse to erode their bargaining rights.”

I was in Ohio, too: knocking on doors, phone banking and canvassing with our sisters and brothers. Although Romney and I were there at about the same time, our purposes were vastly different. That gave me additional proof that Romney is not someone we can trust. (Nor can we trust his Vice Presidential pick, Rep. Paul Ryan, who prefers to raise taxes on working families so he can lower them for rich ones.)

It’s About Right Versus Wrong

In addition to re-electing the President, we must elect pro-worker candidates at every level of government and hold them accountable. We must encourage more working people and AFSCME members to run themselves — like Missy Sorenson. We must build capacity this fall for the 2013 state legislative fights. And we must begin a serious, far-reaching national conversation with AFSCME members so that our strategy aligns with the severity and nature of our challenges.

Political involvement is part of our union’s DNA; it is essential to our ability to stand up for our families who continue to believe that working hard and playing by the rules still matter.

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