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RTC Section Spotlight

Elections fuel Florida members

New York Teacher
A woman sits by the computer with a paper in hand.

Esther Tanner was among the many retired members who made calls in a noble attempt to flip Florida.

Despite heroic efforts to get out the vote in Florida, UFT retiree volunteers were unable to swing the state to Joe Biden.

The Florida section volunteers made round after round of phone calls to UFT retiree households across the state throughout the summer and fall.

“We did our best and really believed it was possible to flip Florida,” said Lynne Winderbaum, a retiree coordinator on Florida’s West Coast.

UFT retiree coordinators and activists on both coasts were disappointed, especially since polls indicated a strong possibility of turning the state blue. But they have built a strong foundation for future campaigns with a phone network of UFT members across that state that works in coordination with other state unions.

“We can’t wait to fire up again in two years to unseat Sen. Marco Rubio and Gov. Ron DeSantis,” Winderbaum said.

RTC Chair Tom Murphy called their work “a model of enthusiastic member engagement.”

The phone network began taking shape when Florida coordinators made safety checks on the more than 7,000 UFT retirees statewide at the start of the pandemic.

They then built on that success and structure to mobilize the vote for Biden in the November election. Starting in June and July, a dedicated core of 55 volunteers called fellow UFT retirees to acquaint them with the candidates and their positions on key issues. In a more narrowly targeted round of follow-up calls, the volunteers encouraged registered Democratic voters and voters with no party affiliation who were friendly to Democrats to use mail-in ballots to make their voices heard while staying safe.

By Nov. 1, West Coast Section Coordinator Christine Rowland reported that 9,654 calls had been made to 7,230 UFT retirees statewide and a record 94% of their mail-in ballots had been recorded before Election Day, according to public records. UFT retirees had submitted 7,131 mail-in ballots this election year, more than double the 3,433 mail-in ballots in 2018.

On Nov. 2, the day before Election Day, a last round of calls was made to every Democrat and Democrat-friendly voter who had not yet voted.

“It is hard to express anything but gratitude for the devoted work you did in this campaign,” Murphy said to phone bank volunteers in a post-election email. “I salute your coalition-building that surely will bear dividends in the future.”

Related Topics: Political Action