July 19, 2018

LAP 2018: Doing the impossible: Campaigns that result in big wins

Author: Ned Hoskin
Source: NYSUT Communications
local action project
Caption: Liam O'Kane and Travis Durfee of Watkins Glen Faculty Association work on a small-group exercise during Wednesday's campaign workshop at NYSUT's 2018 Local Action Project in Saratoga Springs. Photo by Andrew Watson.

President Andy Pallotta said setting political goals and winning big campaigns very quickly pays huge dividends in advancing the labor movement, public education and the union’s agenda of worker justice.

“Seeing our own Christine Pellegrino,” a NYSUT member and first-term member of the state Assembly from Nassau County, “up there as we go to the legislative budget hearings. It means so much.”

In the past year, the union and its locals have orchestrated many upset victories, winning special elections in long-shot races, flipping seats, overturning hostile school boards, supporting ballot referendums. In a matter of months, the union and its coalition partners turned a 2-1 projected defeat on last year’s constitutional convention referendum into an 83 percent win.

At the Local Action Project Wednesday, NYSUT’s team of regional political organizers shared the art and science of running these big campaigns that make huge differences.

Success doesn’t happen by itself. It takes a lot of work, and a lot of homework!

You have to know how many people are likely to vote and you have to know how many people are going to vote the right way, said Regional Political Organizer Jeff Friedman from Nassau County, who organized the Pellegrino efforts.

Counting on about 10,000 voters in the special election, Friedman knew he had 6,000 NYSUT members in the Assembly District. That was the margin they needed.

“At the end of the day, a campaign is about the numbers,” he said.

NYSUT can provide all the data that local unions need, said RPO Mike Grubiak.

“We can give you the number of registered voters, the number of NYSUT members in the district, the turnout for recent votes, the ideological trends in the community,” he said. “We have hundreds of these variables and we can make them all available to you through your RPO.”

The data can help local activists determine which tactics — phone calls, mailers, signs, social media — will be most effective for your specific campaigns. You have to factor in how many voters you need to reach, how many volunteers you can recruit and how much money you have to spend. The RPOs can help figure out what is going to be most effective in any local scenarios.

One thing is for certain: You need to do as much as you possibly can to be successful, from the opening strategy meetings to the final night of get-out-the-vote phone calls.

“There are a lot of different things that you can do, because you really have to hit them over the head,” said Friedman. “The truth is, someone has to be hit over the head a million times before they remember.”

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