THE BLOG
11/30/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

In Praise of Canvassing: It's Not Too Late to Volunteer

When you wake up on November 5th, you may have a hangover. And that's o.k. Wake up with a hangover but don't wake up remorseful over what you could have done but didn't.

We are ahead in the polls but as a union leader who's seen many a National Labor Review Board election the realities of how elections are administered do not guarantee fairness. So that's why we need to really put this election over-the-top.

It is not too late to impact this election. There is meaningful volunteer work to be done not just for Obama but voter protection work, for the No on Prop 8 campaign in California, the Working Families Party's "Vote Obama on Row E" campaign in New York and for statewide races.

I understand that door knocking can be tiring and can put you out of your comfort zone but person-to-person contact is the best way to effect change in voter behavior. As union organizers we know this from personal experience. Yale political scientists, Donald P. Green and Alan S. Gerber, have also determined through numerous studies on Get Out The Vote (GOTV) work that one out of every 15 voters approached at the door will vote for your candidate.

The trepidation new volunteers feel the first time they go door knocking quickly fades to deep satisfaction. I hear it all the time. Going to a person's home and talking with them is one of the most meaningful things progressives can do. In union organizing drives workers who are organizing a union are under tremendous pressure. One in five union activists can expect to be illegally fired during an organizing campaign. Yet workers still fight for unionization (of course when Obama passes the Employee Free Choice Act workers will have better protection on the job).

UNITE HERE
members understand the power of person-to-person contact-- they are experienced at speaking with coworkers about core economic issues since they do this on the job to build support around contract negotiations. Asking a stranger to vote for Obama is a small ask in comparison to asking your coworkers to take on the management and unionize. Many UNITE HERE members have put their lives on hold for the past few months to turn out the vote.

Chanel Black is a UNITE HERE shop steward at the MGM Grand Casino in Detroit, meaning that she works full time at the Casino and volunteers to be her coworkers' point person for workplace issues. Chanel's local thought she'd be a great volunteer team leader for UNITE HERE's massive Wisconsin election mobilization. Chanel knew she wanted to go but was concerned about childcare for her 8 year old son. Her parents, told her "it takes a village to raise a family, right now the country needs you to help us win this election, you go out and do what you need to do, save the world, we'll babysit."

Marsha Collins from Local 218 in Atlanta told us;

"To join the campaign I had to miss the birth of my grandchild. But, my daughter said,' This baby is going to be fine. I want to go and I cannot, so I need you to go for me and my baby and you and our country. I want you to be able to tell your grandson that you were part of history and show him that anything is possible if you are willing to make sacrifices.' So I came and I have no regrets."

If Chanel and Marsha found a way to volunteer, you can too.

So now that you've decided to volunteer between now and the election, here are some tips we collected from UNITE HERE members volunteering in our mobilization:

- ask people what challenges their facing in their own lives, that easily becomes a conversation about Obama's economic and healthcare policy

- encourage early voting in states that allow it

- when all else fails go back to your personal story, why you are voting for Obama

What? Still reading? Get on the phone, call up where you'd like to volunteer. Do it now.