I have asked retiree Sherry Friedman to share her campaign story in this last column of the school year. An English and creative writing teacher for 35 years, she trained teachers citywide as a UFT/BOE peer intervenor. She is also a published writer.
— Tom Murphy, chapter leader
I had the privilege of volunteering with a dedicated group of fellow UFT retirees, along with AFT political organizers from around the country, on Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail in Florida in March. Equipped with our phone app “walk list” of registered Democrats represented by 37 unions that have endorsed Clinton, we canvassed in towns from Fort Lauderdale to Miami.
We worked eight to 10 hours per day with a daily list of up to 70 doors to knock on. We distributed literature, asked for signed commitment cards and “got out the vote.” Although the experience was sometimes exhausting, it was a gratifying learning opportunity to talk to voters. Let me share it with you.
We met a range of people from young in-service workers to retirees, from the wealthy to the poor, the elderly and the disabled. With most, their eyes lit up at the sight of our blue AFT For Hillary 2016 T-shirts.
In Riviera Beach, a mailman making rounds told us he had relocated from “anti-union Wisconsin” and was glad to see us. He warned we were in an area that had suffered recent street violence. Undaunted, we continued knocking on doors where we met a senior citizen recovering from recent surgery.
“Life needs to get better here,” she told us, “and I need my pension, Medicare and Social Security. That’s why I’m for Hillary.”
A retired painter in Lake Worth invited us in to see his gallery of President Obama pictures. “Look at my shrine,” he boasted. “We need Hillary to continue Obamacare!”
In Lighthouse Point, a teacher told us she was moving because she feared pressure and bigotry from right-wing Republican neighbors. She welcomed us in and called three friends to come and meet us. “We’re with Hillary!” they chanted.
In West Palm Beach, a transplanted New Yorker would speak to us only in whispers. “I’m a black woman and this is still the South. Life is hard for us here. Hillary can change things,” she explained, as she offered to volunteer for the campaign.
In upscale Jupiter, a young mother pointed out, “Bernie (Sanders) has good intentions but he hasn’t accomplished much in his 25 years in the Senate. So, I’m with her.”
Besides canvassing, our group attended exciting events. At the Miami-Dade campus debate between Hillary and Bernie, we waved our placards to cheering crowds and cars honking in support. Our activities culminated in the thrilling victory rally in West Palm Beach where the atmosphere was electric. We stood proudly on risers near the stage, knowing we had helped Hillary win that winner-take-all state. “We love the AFT and all you do for Hillary and your students,” a campaign staffer told us.
Back home in New York, I continue to support our candidate, attend rallies and donate to the campaign fund. You may have spotted me behind Hillary on stage at the Apollo Theater. As she and Sen. Chuck Schumer walked by, she smiled at my blue AFT T-shirt and gave me a thumbs up. After her speech, she thanked me for going to Florida for her as she snapped a selfie of us.
“Please ask the AFT to keep up the good work. I still need you,” she added. Gladly, I conveyed that message to the leadership — and here to you.
Now, the AFT, UFT and most unions urge you to vote for Hillary Clinton in the general election this November to preserve our hard-won rights. She is the most qualified person to be our nominee and president of the United States.
Please volunteer your time and donate, too.
Hillary has always had our backs. It is time to have hers.