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Saunders credits sustained voter engagement for Biden-Harris win

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris take the stage to address the nation November 7, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Saunders credits sustained voter engagement for Biden-Harris win

AFSCME President Lee Saunders joined other labor leaders and philanthropist Tom Steyer on a call Monday to discuss how the For Our Future, a grassroots organization, helped deliver a Biden-Harris victory.

For Our Future engages voters in key electoral states by having one-on-one, sustained conversations around progressive issues such as racial justice, climate change, economic equity and strong public schools. Sponsored by AFSCME and other labor and progressive organizations, For Our Future’s model of mobilizing voters is rooted in remaining in communities – especially marginalized ones – year-round, rather than just during elections.

For Our Future’s innovative model saw new challenges during the pandemic, when talking to voters face to face required COVID-safe methods. Nevertheless, according to For Our Future’s CEO, Justin Myers, the group’s canvassers knocked on 1.3 million doors, made 6.5 million phone calls, had 700,000 safe conversations.

As a result, the communities where For Our Future canvassed helped deliver victory for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris.

“We saw in the electorate that we had to give people a reason to vote by showing them how their vote could make their communities better,” Myers said.

Saunders also emphasized that philosophy’s success, saying: “Political action isn’t transactional. It’s transformational.”

Saunders pointed to one of For Our Future’s partners, the Milwaukee-based BLOC, or Black Leaders Organizing for Communities, as an example of transformational voter engagement.

“I’ve seen BLOC’s inspiring and dynamic grassroots work up close. They canvass 12 months a year in the city’s African American community – not just talking to folks but listening to them, learning about their concerns and their priorities,” said Saunders. “BLOC ambassadors aren’t just asking their neighbors to support individual candidates; they are engaged in a long-term civic engagement project.”

Steyer, a former presidential candidate, leads another of For Our Future’s sponsors, NextGen, whose goal is to mobilize young voters. On the call, Steyer said that For Our Future, together with the labor movement, succeeded in amplifying, a “Biden-Harris message about standing up for working families and standing with the labor movement. For Our Future was critical to restoring the blue wall in the Upper Midwest and holding Nevada.”

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten discussed how For Our Future’s model positioned them to succeed during the pandemic. She said the group observed safety protocols for dealing with COVID-19.

“For Our Future started because we know how important building relationships are. While COVID-19 threw everybody for a loop, the question became, ‘Could we find a way to connect with people face to face?’” said Weingarten. “That’s what For Our Future did. … You see the results.”

The National Education Association, another For Our Future founding sponsor, is led by Becky Pringle, who talked about how this past election’s success is only just the beginning.

“We’re not done,” Pringle said. “It’s not only about electing the right leaders up and down the ballot, but continuing to have those conversations about race, equity, access and opportunity – to help the Biden-Harris administration lead.”

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