MEET A MEMBER POLITICAL ORGANIZER (MPO):October 13, 2022
EVEN AFTER WITNESSING THE WORST OF HURRICANE IAN KENZI STEWART FEARS FLORIDA’S RADICAL POLITICIANS MORE THAN STORMS
From left: Member Political Organizer (MPO) Kenzi Stewart with 1199SEIU-endorsed candidate Eunic Ortiz (Florida Senate District 18).
Member Political Organizer (MPO) Kenzi Stewart recently experienced an up-close look at the very worst of Hurricane Ian that decimated Southwest Florida. Ian tragically killed more than 100 Floridians and left many more desperate and displaced when their homes were destroyed. Stewart evacuated her Fort Myers home to ride out the storm with family in Port Charlotte, both areas hit hard by historic water and wind. At her worksite, Fawcett Memorial Hospital, a large portion of the building’s roof above the ICU was torn off by Ian’s Category 4 winds.
Yet, while deeply saddened for so many Floridians devastated by Hurricane Ian, she believes self-serving, radically partisan politicians pose an overall greater long-term threat to the state than any single hurricane, even as destructive as Ian.
“Ian is a terrible catastrophe for those who lost their lives, loved ones, family homes and businesses. It’s beyond my ability to properly to describe their pain,” she said. “Sadly, we know hurricanes are always going to hit Florida because we can’t stop nature. But we can stop the cynical opportunists who want to benefit themselves and their political ambitions at the expense of everyone else.”
Stewart is referring to politicians who put the billion-dollar profits of big business over the daily needs of working families; who ignore the lack of affordable housing, healthcare and home insurance; and who wage culture wars to divide us and distract from their selfishness or failures.
“It’s especially anti-democratic, dark and frightening how these politicians have ferociously attacked women’s freedoms, members of vulnerable communities, education, voting rights and the ability for working people to afford a secure life. It’s like they want to send society backwards in time,” she says. “As a young person, it’s chilling to think this will be our future.”
That’s why, as a 25-year-old member of Generation Z, Stewart is working hard to get out the vote among her fellow 1199SEIU Florida members, families and friends young and old.
She’s led canvassing, phone banking and many other efforts before and after Hurricane Ian in conjunction with her 1199SEIU union and Florida For All, a coalition of organizations fighting to elect leaders and pass legislation that truly supports the needs of everyday Floridians.
Stewart said her work as an MPO is very gratifying when she is informing and discussing important issues with fellow 1199SEIU members and the community, especially when it results in important wins such as the new $15 per hour minimum wage for essential nursing home and hospital workers.
She said she previously had been turned off by politics, but realized “we have to get off the sidelines waiting for somebody else” to help make real changes and improvements in the lives of working people.
“At a minimum, we all have to vote in every single election, especially if you are fed up by officials who don’t help the people they were elected to serve.”
She’s especially dismayed by Marco Rubio who stays invisible and unreachable until election season every six years, and even more by Ron DeSantis who has put his own partisan national ambitions and hurtful political stunts as governor far in front of solving urgent issues for Floridians.
She pointed most recently to news coverage showing how DeSantis and his operatives were distracted and using our Florida taxpayer dollars to trick Venezuelan asylum seekers into flying from Texas to Massachusetts, instead of preparing Southwest Florida for Hurricane Ian’s deadly fury. To make it even worse in the wake of the storm, DeSantis was criticized for halting and hampering recovery efforts to pose for “fake photo opps.”
In addition, Stewart pointed to analyses that residents in Southwest Florida and other parts of the state will soon feel the pain of an even more severe insurance crisis; caused by the DeSantis administration and the Florida Legislature’s cozy relationship with the billion-dollar insurance industry. Stewart sadly agrees with these conclusions that those hit hardest by the storm will be denied proper compensation and almost everyone else will be dropped by their carrier or hit with huge premium increases.
“All of these problems come down to selfish politicians who don’t really care,” said Stewart. “So it’s up to all of us to get involved and new elect leaders who will.”
Visit www.1199votes.org for a list of 1199SEIU Florida endorsed candidates in your area. For more information on becoming an MPO or getting involved in the election, contact 1199SEIU Florida political coordinator Jason Morales at firstname.lastname@example.org or 646-413-2755.