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Now’s the Time to Be Loud. Register to Vote.

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Image result for Nakisha M. Lewis

We’re not staying quiet anymore.

Working people hit the streets last week, marching for climate justice and picketing alongside nearly 50,000 striking General Motors workers.

It was far from a one-off demonstration of our power. Those actions followed in the footsteps of activists, strikers, organizers and countless others who, all this year, have refused to accept a rigged, broken system.

Worker solidarity is at a boiling point. Hundreds of thousands of working people are joining the labor movement, and millions more say they’re ready to follow suit if given the chance.

Americans are driving a moment of collective action unlike anything we’ve seen in decades. From the workplace to the picket line to our communities, we’re making our voices heard and fighting for the justice that we’re owed.

It’s a fight to peel back corporations’ stranglehold on our economy and eradicate the inequities that still define our society. This is a struggle for massive changes in the way we work and live, putting our lives and future back into our own hands.

That sort of structural change requires new economic and political rules. And to win those new rules, we have to win some elections.

We’ve made plenty of noise in the streets. Now, it’s time to make sure that noise is heard loud and clear at the ballot box.

The work of electing genuine advocates to office—from the White House to city councils—starts now. Our success in 2020 won’t be secured through ad buys or corporate fundraisers. Ultimately, it will be decided by the size and makeup of the electorate.

Who will be registered to vote, and who will turn out to cast a ballot? That’s the game. The other side is already playing, and we need to get moving.

In states across the country—including battlegrounds like Ohio, Wisconsin and Georgia—right-wing forces have changed registration rules, restricted access to polling places and even purged hundreds of thousands of people from the voter rolls.

They want us to be quiet. They want us to stay home. Because if we aren’t silenced, they know we will decide this election.

We can’t afford to sit this out. So, I have three asks for you this National Voter Registration Day.

First, check your voter registration status. You can do it right now. Go to your secretary of state’s website to see whether you’re registered to vote. And if you’re not, change that today.

Second, register your people. Talk to your family and your neighbors. Your friends. Your co-workers. Talk to young people and newly eligible voters. Talk to people who haven’t voted in years. Ask them if they’re registered to vote. If they don’t know, help them check. And if they aren’t, help them register.

Third, remember those conversations and make sure all of those people in your life turn out to vote.

That’s the game plan. If we follow through with it, we can make sure that the votes cast next November represent who we are. We can make sure that our elected officials represent our communities. And we can make sure the policies they enact represent our best interests.

It’s on us to mobilize our communities. Nobody’s going to do it for us, and plenty of deep pockets are doing just the opposite.

We have the power to overcome that opposition and be heard. We do it every day. Let’s do it some more.

This article was originally published at AFL-CIOs on September 24, 2019. Reprinted with permission. 

About the Author: Nakisha M. Lewis is the Director of Civil, Human and Women’s Rights at the AFL-CIO. She is an experienced philanthropic and political impact strategist with deep roots in community organizing. She comes to the Labor Movement after more than twenty years organizing for racial justice, women’s rights and LGBTQ equality at the local and national levels. Prior to joining the AFL-CIO, Nakisha spent ten years in philanthropy working with individual donors and foundations to develop grantmaking strategies that address inequities and strengthen marginalized communities. Most recently, she served as Program Officer and Senior Strategist for Safety at the Ms. Foundation for Women where she created a national portfolio for women and girls with a Black, queer, feminist lens. Her work on women’s rights also includes the co-founding of the #SheWoke Committee—the catalyst for the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls; established in 2016 and the co-convening of “Power Rising” – a national conference to build an agenda for Black women and girls.


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Nov. 4: It’s All About Women

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Image: Liz Shuler

The other day I read a statistic that made me laugh a little. It said women’s issues are shaping up as the second-biggest issue among voters this year, behind only the economy.

Really? I don’t think so.

We are the economy.

Women’s issues, family issues are economic issues. And, as we know every single day, economic issues are women’s issues.

That’s why this election is so important to us. And why we’re so important in this election.

In a few days, we’ll have the opportunity to determine what kind of economy we will have—what kind of future—by electing leaders who will work for all of us.

In many cases, it’s women (especially unmarried women) who are putting these candidates on top in the polls.

But polls aren’t what shape our future. Elections are. And a big question today is: Will women turn out to vote?

The track record in midterm elections isn’t great. Let’s change that. There is a lot at stake:

  • We still make 77 cents for every $1 a man makes—that is a national shame, and it costs a typical women at least $400,000 over her lifetime. The shortfall doesn’t end when she is done working—it affects her income after retirement. It’s time to elect candidates who will enact equal pay laws.
  • We are nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers at $7.25 an hour, and two-thirds of tipped workers, who have a federal minimum wage of just $2.13 an hour. Even the full minimum wage leaves a woman and her two children thousands of dollars below the poverty line. Raising the minimum wage would improve life for millions of working women and families.
  • Many women in low-wage jobs also are crippled economically by work schedules they have no control over—shifts assigned just a day or two in advance or scheduled at the last minute is nothing unusual. We need to enact the Schedules That Work Act in Congress and similar state and local measures.
  • Women also have additional responsibilities for caregiving in our homes—yet employers rarely are required to provide earned leave for caregivers! Millions of women go to work sick or can’t care for a sick child without losing a day’s pay and potentially jeopardizing their jobs. Women can elect the leaders to change that.
  • When I was in Bangor, Maine, last week I spoke to a United Steelworkers union millwright and “Women of Steel” leader named Linda.  I asked her why she got active this election cycle and she put it quite plainly: “Somebody needs to step up” for what’s right.  Linda’s 51-year-old sister has a serious health condition but no health insurance.  Her governor had refused to extend health coverage to more low-income people under the Affordable Care Act, as 23 states have done. Linda’s next governor’s decisions on health care will make a real, personal difference for her family—and for many more low-income women.
  • And, finally, all of us have seen the outrageous attacks at every level on women’s access to a full range of health care services. It is amazingly hypocritical that the extremists who scream the loudest against ”government intrusion” also fight the hardest to intrude in health care decisions that belong between a woman and her doctor.

This is why I’m asking you to pull out all the stops to rev up voters for candidates who will deliver what women need—equal pay, a higher minimum wage, fair scheduling and earned sick leave, and protection of our right to make our own health care decisions.

This year’s elections are going to be very tight. Every vote will make a difference—the difference between progress and backsliding, between hope and fear. So every conversation you have with a potential woman voter is important.

We need women power if we want to win. And that means you!

This blog originally appeared in Momsrising.org and AFL-CIO.org. on October 30, 2014. Reprinted with permission. http://www.aflcio.org/Blog/Political-Action-Legislation/Nov.-4-It-s-All-About-Women

About the Author: Liz Shuler was elected AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer in September 2009, the youngest person ever to become an officer of the AFL-CIO. Shuler previously was the highest-ranking woman in the Electrical Workers (IBEW) union, serving as the top assistant to the IBEW president since 2004. In 1993, she joined IBEW Local 125 in Portland, Ore., where she worked as an organizer and state legislative and political director. In 1998, she was part of the IBEW’s international staff in Washington, D.C., as a legislative and political representative.

 


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