CNA Blanche Norwood Mobilizes Floridians to Vote to Protect Workers’ RightsSeptember 14, 2020
CNA, political activist, union organizer and great-grandmother -- these are just a few ways to describe Blanche Norwood. Currently, she's working with her union, 1199SEIU, as a member political organizer (MPO) to help get out the vote for the November 3 election. She's a seasoned MPO who has helped to mobilize voters for several big elections in the past including President Barack Obama, Vice President Al Gore and Attorney General Janet Reno. Over the years she's seen and learned a lot. But she says the 2020 election is like no other because the stakes are so high.
"Unions are under attack, black communities are under attack and we're all at risk, especially healthcare workers, due to the coronavirus. This president doesn't care," said Norwood.
All of these issues concern Norwood and they motivate her to do this grassroots political work. However, she's particularly passionate about protecting workers' rights because she believes unions help working people build power.
"There's inequality and discrimination in the workplace," explained Norwood. "The benefit of having a union is it gives workers a voice on the job so we can use our collective voices to speak out against injustice."
Norwood points to her own experiences as proof. She has worked at Treasure Isle Care Center in Miami for 45 years. During that time, she and her coworkers on the bargaining team have won contracts that include higher wages, additional vacation time and good benefits.
Norwood believes these gains wouldn't have been possible if workers had not joined together in their union.
"The employer doesn't give you a raise because they like you,” said Norwood. “Workers have to stand together in order to win higher wages, good benefits and other gains.”
Even with a strong union at her facility, Norwood says management has tried to make changes to scheduling and call outs but as a Delegate, she makes sure her coworkers know their rights. The union contract also protects staffing levels at Norwood’s facility which has been critically important during the pandemic. Norwood reminds her coworkers they can make positive changes in the workplace by voting for candidates who support bills that call for safe staffing levels, raising the minimum wage, adequate funding for long-term care facilities and protecting workers’ rights.
“Federal and state elected officials have the power to allocate funding for nursing homes so it’s imperative that we choose candidates who support working people,” said Norwood.
Norwood believes all workers should have the opportunity to join a union. This is one of the key platform issues in the America for All campaign. It’s a powerful campaign that is bringing workers together across the country to call for healthcare for all, immigration reform, racial justice, strong families and communities, fully funded and sustainable long-term care and unions for all.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his running mate Kamala Harris both support strong unions so Norwood is working hard to get out the vote for them. Biden and Kamala also believe in racial justice, expanding access to affordable healthcare, immigration reform, and essential pay for essential workers. Getting this message to voters can be challenging because the pandemic has changed outreach tactics. In past elections, Norwood and other canvassers would walk through neighborhoods, knock on doors and talk to voters face to face. Due the pandemic the majority of work is now done by phone or text message.
"It can be challenging to connect with people because you can't look them in the eye when you talk to them. But we can reach more people than ever by phone or text so that's a real plus," said Norwood.
Norwood and several other 1199SEIU MPOs are making thousands of calls to remind Floridians to register to vote by the October 5 deadline. She's also encouraging people to sign up for vote by mail because it's safe, easy and secure.
"Everyone has to vote because we need to elect leaders we can trust," said Norwood. "It's not just the presidential election that matters. Whoever is elected to Congress could help or hinder the next president. State, county and local leaders can also implement policies that impact our daily lives so, all elections are important."
You can register to vote and request a vote by mail ballot at https://seiuflorida.vote/