The COVID-19 pandemic may have wreaked havoc with the motion picture and television industry, but in the midst of the 2020 primary season, Local 600’s Young Workers were not about to let any virus mess with members’ ability to be heard at the ballot box.
Under the leadership of Young Workers chairs across the three regions, a group of volunteers launched a voting outreach campaign to encourage members living in states with upcoming primaries to register to vote and send in absentee ballots by the various deadlines. For good measure, they even offered stamps to those in need.
The initiative began after the March 3 Super Tuesday, with 25 primaries still coming up. Through dedicated outreach, volunteers reached 2,819 members. The largest concentration of voters was in New York and Georgia, with 1,943 members. Hawaii was next up, with volunteers recently wrapping up their outreach there. Last on the list are 45 members in Connecticut for the state’s August 11 primary.
“This is a success story that Young Workers and Local 600 will build upon as a model for the general election,” said Local 600 political consultant Kathy Garmezy. “Rallies, door-to-door GOTV, large phone banks… all of these are gone during this pandemic. Person-to-person outreach via texting has become a primary and critical part of GOTV. The Young Workers were ahead of the game.”
The idea for the campaign began with Cai Hall, co-chair of the New York Young Workers, after a recent move. Hall’s wife was concerned that she had not changed her address in time to meet the voting deadline. The two quickly realized, however, that many deadlines had shifted around and that voters might not be aware of the new dates. In addition, during the early, bleak days of the pandemic in New York, Hall and fellow New York Co-Chair Kyle Gorjanc felt there was an acute need for sheltered-at-home members to be in touch and help each other out.
“We decided to mash the two ideas together,” Hall said.
Hall took the idea to Los Angeles Young Workers Co-Chair Brian Udoff, who is also a member of the Local 600 National Executive Board. They wrote up a proposal for the campaign, dubbed “Stay Home to Vote,” secured approval from the Local 600 National Executive Officers and developed a script. Then the reminder texts, emails and phone calls started flying.
The volunteers kept the messaging nonpartisan. Members were encouraged to register to vote and to send in a ballot by the upcoming primary deadline. If a member responded, he or she was sent a follow-up link and a reminder to fill out the 2020 Census as well.
“Reminding people to register and to vote isn’t and shouldn’t be political,” said Udoff. “We’re not getting involved with telling people how to vote or why. We’re making sure people are involved, because, at the end of the day, being in a union inherently is a political activity.”
The campaign picked up steam with membership in different states helping in different ways. Second Assistant Ryan Bushman, a Local 600 Trustee, helped coordinate the outreach in New Mexico, where he is based. Second Assistant Jose Figueroa-Baez contacted the membership in Puerto Rico and translated the script into Spanish.
Volunteers reported that the members contacted were appreciative of the effort. And, yes, all but three either had their own stamps or lived in a state where the absentee ballot came with pre-paid postage.
“We did get a couple of interesting replies from members who thought we were campaigning for something in particular,” Gorjanc said. “Overall, people were so excited to hear from someone in the local and glad that we were making the effort to reach out.”
The featured photo was taken from a nationwide Young Workers Zoom meeting earlier this year, with special guests President John Lindley, ASC, National Executive Director Rebecca Rhine, and Political Consultant Kathy Garmezy.