10/17/2016

Labor launches bid for votes in Philly and suburbs

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From New York City to Baltimore and points in between, labor activists boarded buses early Saturday morning and rolled in to Philadelphia and surrounding suburbs to turn out votes to elect Hillary Clinton as the first woman to hold the nation's highest office and Democrat Katie McGinty as the first woman U.S. senator in state history and part of new congressional majority pledged to help Americans better their lives and their communities.

Randi Weingarten and Katie McGintySpearheading this Oct. 15 regional get-out-the-vote effort were the members and officers of the AFT, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the National Education Association. The day started with a rally in West Philadelphia, followed by a full afternoon of shoe-leather politics, going from door to door in the city and the "collar" suburbs that could prove decisive on election night—for the Keystone state and the country.

"We're ready to work, we're ready to fight, we're ready to win," McGinty told the cheering crowd, who came from as far as Yonkers, N.Y., and as near as Walnut Hill on the west side of town. McGinty reminded labor canvassers not only of Donald Trump's outrageous, divisive conduct but also of candidates like her GOP Senate challenger, Pat Toomey, who would rather turn a blind eye to Trump's transgressions than lose Trump votes in down-ballot races.  "Everything is on the line," she said, "and everything is on the ballot, [including] human decency."

AFT President Randi Weingarten was on hand to greet AFT activists rolling into West Philadelphia for the early morning kickoff rally. The type of work that drew labor to Philadelphia is going on around the country and will shape results up and down the ballot, Weingarten said—and nobody does it better than the AFT and its union allies.

"We know who has our principles at heart; we know who walks labor's walk, and it's Katie McGinty and Hillary Clinton," she told the crowd. Forget the polls, Weingarten added. From now until the election, labor must work like our endorsed candidates are 10 points down in every single race.

AFT members rallyIt was a message that AFT members like Angela Iovine, a teacher at a high-needs school in Philadelphia, were ready and eager to hear. She worried that Trump's efforts to gut Title I funding puts a bull's-eye on services for students in schools serving low-income communities. "We really need to bring everyone out so that Hillary wins big," Iovine said. "She has the expertise and the background of public service" that her GOP challenger sorely lacks.

Asked why she'd burn a Saturday morning to canvass for Clinton and McGinty, the teacher didn't waiver for a second. "There are a million things wearing on me right now, but there's nothing more important" than being part of this historic effort.

[Mike Rose, Michael Heenan]