This spring, retired AFT member Sherry Friedman volunteered with fellow retirees from the United Federation of Teachers in New York City on Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail in Florida, canvassing from Fort Lauderdale to Miami. With a daily list of up to 70 doors to knock on, she found it sometimes exhausting but always gratifying to talk with voters.
LET ME SHARE this with you. I learned that Florida is more than luxurious gated communities for northern snowbirds. Instead, it is also a state of native Floridians with varied social and economic problems, a microcosm of America. We were amazed at how many people said “God bless you for coming to see me” because they were hungry for contact with other union members and the chance to discuss their views.
We met a range of people from young workers to retirees, from the wealthy to the poor. With most, their eyes lit up at the sight of our blue “AFT for Hillary” T-shirts.
In Riviera Beach, a mailman making rounds, who told us he relocated from “anti-union Wisconsin,” was glad to see us, yet urged us to leave before sundown. He warned we were canvassing an area that had suffered street violence. Undaunted, we continued knocking on doors of modest stucco houses.
“Life needs to get better here,” a senior citizen recovering from surgery told us, “and I need my pension, Medicare and Social Security. That’s why I’m for Hillary.”
A retired painter in Lake Worth invited us in to see his gallery of President Obama pictures. “Look at my shrine,” he boasted. “We need Hillary to continue Obamacare!”
In West Palm Beach, an ex-New Yorker would speak to us only in whispers. “I’m a black woman and this is still the South. Life is hard for us here. Hillary can change things.”
Besides canvassing, our group attended exciting events. That was us at the Miami Dade College debate between Hillary and Bernie Sanders, waving our placards to cheering crowds and cars honking in support. The culmination of our activities was the thrilling victory rally in West Palm. The atmosphere was electric as we stood proudly on risers near the stage, believing we helped Hillary win that winner-take-all state.
“We love the AFT and all you do for Hillary and your students,” a staffer told us.
Back home in New York, I continue to support our candidate, attend rallies and donate to the campaign fund. You may have spotted me behind Hillary onstage at the Apollo Theater. As she walked by, she smiled at my AFT shirt and gave me a thumbs-up. After her speech, she thanked me for going to Florida for her. “Please ask the AFT to keep up the good work. I still need you,” she added.
Now I urge you to join us and vote for Hillary Clinton this November. I recommend that you volunteer your time and money, too. She is the most qualified person to be our nominee and the next president of the United States. She has always had our backs, and it is time to have hers.
Sherry Friedman is an AFT member retired from a 35-year career in the New York City public schools.