About 100 Ironworkers from central Iowa gathered at the Local 67 headquarters on the northeast side of Des Moines a few cold weekends ago to hear from their international president on the importance of caucusing for Hillary Clinton. Their mission that day was to send their members out to knock on doors of fellow labor members from unions that have endorsed Clinton.
The Ironworkers in particular looked to make an impact for Clinton, and to improve considerably over their turnout in 2008, when they saw only 77 of their members caucus. Ironworkers count about 1,400 members in Iowa, so there’s plenty of room to improve and give Clinton an extra boost.
“What we can’t write a check for against a corporation, we match with shoe leather,” Ironworkers International President Eric Dean told Starting Line at the canvass kick-off. He had come with several other top staff members from the international, and went out to do some door-knocking himself on some members’ doors in single-digit weather.
“We believe and we’ve been preaching that members need to vote in all elections,” Dean said.
The canvass that weekend was but one part of organized labor’s major push in the last month of the caucus to turn out their members for Clinton. She’s been endorsed by 24 labor unions, including most of the heavy-hitters of AFSCME, NEA, SEIU and the UFCW.
Many of those unions have already had staff placed here for months, working on member-to-member outreach. Their organizing tactics run the gamut from volunteer phone calls to direct mail to online advertising to worksite visits.
One of the largest investments has come from AFSCME, the public employees union. They already have eight offices around the state and have filled seven of them with full-time political staff to reach out to their members.
AFSCME also says they’ve looked at this caucus program in a much different way than they have in the past. Rather than immediately launch in to pushing their candidate, they spent a month talking with their members about working class issues. Then later on they connected those issues to their endorsed candidate. They mentioned they’ve seen some very effective results with the new approach.
“It’s been great seeing so many labor unions united behind Hillary Clinton,” said Danny Homan, the head of AFSCME Council 61 in Des Moines. “It’s just another sign that Hillary is the candidate who can get the job done for working families on the issues that matter most: protecting retirement security, safeguarding worker’s rights, and ensuring equal pay for equal work.”
And to emphasize how seriously they’re taking winning the Iowa Caucus for Clinton, many of the endorsed union’s presidents have visited the state. In addition to Dean’s visit from the Ironworkers, the national/international leaders of AFSCME, NEA, SEIU, Carpenters, Laborers, AFGE, UFCW and the Painters have all either come to union events in Iowa for Clinton or are scheduled to.
A major labor rally for Clinton is scheduled for Saturday in Davenport. The heads of six unions will join Hillary Clinton there to kick off a large labor canvassing effort.
The Clinton-backing unions, of course, are not alone. The National Nurses Union, which operates a member-funded Super PAC, has been very noticeable in Iowa for months. They’ve paid for television and billboard ads, often arrive at Sanders events in their red shirts and have even launched their own Bernie bus tour around the state.
But Clinton clearly has a significant advantage here in terms of organizational support from the country’s and state’s biggest unions. With Sanders doing well among working-class and younger Iowans, that labor support could help turn some of those Sanders supporters back around to Clinton.
“Overall we feel that Hillary’s experience as Secretary of State gives us far above anybody else on national security, but also her understanding on construction work, energy and infrastructure,” said Dave Colby, the Ironworkers legislative political director for the international. “Just her infrastructure plan itself would be enough to support her.”
by Pat Rynard