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In Tight NC Race, AFL-CIO Sees Its Outreach, Union and Non-Union, As a Difference Maker

If 2015's Moral Monday protests are any indication, labor is ready to mobilize in NC

If 2015’s Moral Monday protests are any indication, labor is ready to mobilize in NC

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North Carolina is a key battleground state in this November’s election. That is why union organizers there are receiving an influx of money and resources from the AFL-CIO as they gear up for the largest mobilization of organized labor in the state’s history. The national AFL-CIO has elevated North Carolina to “Tier 1″ status and will be hiring 100 full time organizers, as well as sending a team of lawyers to monitor polling places and prevent voter suppression.

With approximately 120,000 union members and 200 unions, North Carolina is one of the least unionized states in the country. But this year, the presidential, gubernatorial, and senatorial races all feature competitive, pro-worker Democrats in Hillary Clinton, Roy Cooper, and Deborah Ross, respectively. Simply put, there is too much at stake in North Carolina to ignore it this election cycle:

“We’ll be working closely with organizations like Democracy North Carolina to promote the voter protection hotline and to educate working people about their rights under the law, including the availability of same day registration, expanded early voting, and that they won’t need to show a photo ID to cast their ballot,” said Jeremy Sprinkle with the NC State AFL-CIO.

Labor leaders are hoping the push will help jumpstart the labor movement in North Carolina. Unlike past labor outreach efforts, this year canvassers will be targeting non-union voters:

“We’ve traditionally just done a member-to-member program, so union members calling other union members and knocking on other union members’ doors, and that’s still our primary focus, but because of these additional resources we can also knock on the doors of the general public as well,” [Secretary-Treasurer of the NC State AFL-CIO MaryBe] McMillan says.

The advantages are twofold. While the primary mission is to elect worker-friendly candidates, the outreach campaign has the secondary effect of humanizing union members in a state where some view organized labor with suspicion. (

“Hopefully by knocking on the general public’s doors folks will be able to see that union members aren’t these scary thugs and mobsters,” McMillan says. We’re their neighbors, we’re the folks that deliver the mail and put out the fires. We’re average, everyday people who are just looking to build better lives for ourselves and our families.”

The AFL-CIO, aligned more than ever with progressive causes outside of labor, also sees an opportunity to mobilize around the state’s oppressive anti-LGBT measure, HB2:

“When people sit around the kitchen table and talk about the issues that matter to them – economic issues, job security issues, health care issues – you know, I’ve yet to have a worker when I’m out in the field walk up to me and say, ‘What do you think about this bathroom issue?’”

As of this writing, the New York Times has Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump tied in North Carolina, a bad sign for the Republican candidate.


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