January 12, 2021

1199ers helped elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Union members will also play a critical role rebuilding the country after four years of destruction and division.

Joe_fa.jpgIn what is arguably the most consequential presidential election in American history, 1199ers overcame the challenges of a global pandemic and helped Joe Biden and Kamala Harris beat Donald Trump. Now, members are setting about the work of undoing the damage done by four years of Donald Trump while at the same time battling COVID’s second wave.

“There’s probably no one who understands more acutely than 1199 members what was at stake in this election,” said 1199SEIU Political Director Gabby Seay. “Everything we have fought for since the Union was founded was in jeopardy—civil rights, workers’ rights, healthcare, education, our kids’ future—everything.

Joe_fa2.jpgTogether with COVID, a second term of Donald Trump would have quite literally destroyed our country and our democracy.”

Late last spring, with COVID-19’s first wave raging and a divided America facing record levels of inequality, 1199SEIU members mustered for the November election.

They quickly undertook groundbreaking organizing campaigns, learned new skills, embraced technology on the fly, and stepped into broad and effective coalitions. Across the Union, 118 Member Political Organizers (MPOs) built community strength, held workplace meetings, ran GOTV events, and connected with partners to educate members and ensure turnout in every voting precinct.

1199ers also made over 300,000 member-to-member calls, sent nearly 400,000 member-to-member texts, and engaged some 500,000 voters. The remarkable effort worked; Joe Biden received the largest number of votes in presidential history, garnering some 80 million votes and shattering Barack Obama’s record from the 2008.

In addition to helping win a $15 minimum wage victory in Florida, preserving a supermajority in the New York State Senate, and winning numerous crucial down-ballot races, 1199 rank and filers and staff aided in the historic effort of turning Georgia blue. Together with the rest of Stacey Abrams’ visionary coalition, 1199ers called over 330,000 Georgia voters and sent texts to an additional 193,000 more. As part of the Pen and Pencil Brigade, 1199SEIU retirees wrote hundreds of personal letters to Georgians encouraging them to vote. (For more on this, see pages 20-21 for a story about the political power of Black and Brown women.)

Joe_fa3.jpgWith November in the rearview, MPO Brendan Lusby, a surgical technologist at Holy Family Medical Center in Methuen, MA, says it’s critical for workers to be at the table during the first 100 days of the Biden presidency.

“President Biden’s priority needs to be getting the economy back on track. And I don’t mean Wall Street. They don’t care about us. I mean for working people,” says Lusby “We need a stimulus package that isn’t a bailout for corporations. It must help everyone who is struggling financially.

It has to make sure healthcare workers are protected and it has to include hazard pay for every essential worker.”

MPO Anestine Bentick, a medical assistant at South Boston Community Health, thinks Biden is off to a good start with his announcement of a mask mandate for his first 100 days.

“But we also need to talk about the right to organize and the Supreme Court, because it’s so out of balance. I have a young adult at home and the Court’s decisions will affect young women’s right to choose. I’m also very concerned about those 565 [immigrant] kids in detention without their parents,” says Bentick. “We must make sure we bring this country back to democracy and common decency. We must emphasize respect for one another. That is going to bring stability back to the country so we can move forward.”

Joe_fa4.jpgMary Maggio Fischer, a Queens MPO says Donald Trump and the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are reminders that we cannot become complacent around any victory or progress.

“We always have to do the work,” says Maggio Fischer. “We can never take anything for granted.”

“It’s incredible what members accomplished and continue to accomplish. We saw how close our democracy came to ending,” said Seay.

“Their focus on the first 100 days of the Biden presidency will ensure that workers’ voices are included in those plans and setting the agenda.”

1199 Magazine | November & December 2020