All eyes were on the purple state of Georgia in December as U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat, faced — and defeated — former pro football player Herschel Walker in a runoff election.
Politically speaking, the Peach State had been reliably red, or Republican, for decades, but a surge of Democratic, or blue, voters has made it purple, meaning the two parties have similar levels of support.
Of the nearly 500 UFT retirees in Georgia, 73% were teachers, 16% were paraprofessionals and the rest were school counselors, school secretaries, social workers and other titles.
The political landscape is complicated because the state is in transition, said Retired Teachers Chapter section coordinator Gail Maynor, a retired school counselor who lives in Roswell. “Georgia is shifting,” she said. “A lot of the voters that would have voted Republican stayed home because they did not want to support Herschel Walker.”
A handful of UFT retirees from New York traveled to Atlanta, Athens and Savannah in the days leading up to the Dec. 6 runoff to knock on doors in support of Warnock. They worked with the AFT and the AFL-CIO and its political organizing arm, Working America, to visit labor-friendly households.
Retired teacher Neal Last of Brooklyn, who was in Athens, said Warnock is “very pro-labor, very pro-teacher.”
“It was really important not to let the other guy get in there” and to help Democrats maintain control of the U.S. Senate, he said.
Nina Tribble, a retired teacher from Nassau County, was in Savannah. “To me, this was so important because democracy is at stake,” she said.
Tribble enjoys canvassing, talking to voters and meeting members of other unions, and said it is easier to volunteer as a retiree. “I can go away longer and you’re not restricted to a time frame,” she said.
Retired teacher Elissa Goldstein was in Savannah with her partner, Donald Nobles, also a retired teacher. She was impressed with Warnock, his eloquence and his backstory — he is the first Black senator to represent a Confederate state.
Goldstein, who previously volunteered in several other battleground states, said, “I have always believed that you cannot complain unless you’re willing to put in the work.”