Union Canvassers Mobilize for Walker vs. Warnock Georgia Runoff Election

Senator Raphael Warnock is facing off against Republican challenger Herschel Walker after neither secured 50% of the vote during the Nov. 8 general election. UNITE HERE is aiming to hit more than 500,000 doors for Warnock, a pastor at Martin Luther King’s former church. Walker is a former NFL star backed by ex-president Trump, and was the only statewide Republican candidate in Georgia to not win his race in the general. He is facing fresh accusations of domestic violence and is trailing in the latest polls.

But it is widely expected for the race to be decided by election day turnout, which is what is driving these union members. Their recent track record gives them reason to be optimistic. In November, UNITE HERE played a key role in helping Democrats maintain their Senate majority. 1,200 members knocked on 2.7 million doors in key swing states, including, as The Real News reported, one million doors to help Democrats hold onto Nevada. A Warnock win will give Democrats an outright majority in the Senate.


Transcript

Linda Harris:  Hi, how are you?

Speaker 1:  Wonderful. How are you?

Linda Harris:  My name is Linda and I’m with UNITE HERE.

Jaisal Noor:  Two days before the Dec. 6 Georgia Senate runoff, 500 members of the hospitality union UNITE HERE are hitting doors across Metro Atlanta to get out the vote. Senator Raphael Warnock is facing off against Republican Challenger Herschel Walker, after neither secured 50% during the Nov. 8 general election.

UNITE HERE is aiming to hit on more than 500,000 doors for Warnock, a pastor at Martin Luther King’s former Church. Walker is a former NFL star backed by ex-president Trump and was the only statewide Republican candidate in Georgia to fail to win his race in the general election. He’s facing fresh accusations of domestic violence and is trailing in the latest polls. But it’s widely expected for the race to be decided by election day turnout, which is what is driving these union members.

Linda Harris:  My name is Linda Harris. I live in Jonesboro, Georgia, and I am here canvassing, getting the Democrat voters to come out and vote. And then I ask them, what is their concern in their community? And once they talk about their community, what their concern is, and then I tell them that Warnock is on our side, that Warnock can help us get what we need as a community, because we start with our community first and then we go out. And like I said, listening to people talk about their community because they know the union is about working people.

Jaisal Noor:  And their recent track record offers them reasons to be optimistic.

Speaker 2:  Well, Rodney broke the record.

Jaisal Noor:  In November, UNITE HERE played a key role in helping Democrats maintain their Senate majority. 1200 members knocked on 2.7 million doors in key swing states, including, as The Real News reported, 1 million doors to help Democrats hold on to Nevada. A Warnock win will give Democrats an outright majority in the Senate, giving them control over committees, more power to confirm Biden’s nominees, and to reduce the influence of corporatist senators like Democrats Krysten Sinema and Joe Manchin.

 In 2020, UNITE HERE also played a key role in Biden’s historic win. And then six weeks later, knocked on 1.5 million doors to help Democrats sweep the January 2021 Georgia Senate runoffs, which gave Democrats control of the chamber. But now they face new challenges in getting out the vote.

Georgia has become ground zero for what critics call Jim Crow 2.0 and has made it harder to vote by mail, by dropbox, or during early voting. The runoff period was shortened by a month, and even giving food or water to those waiting in voting lines has been banned.

Tiffani Davis:  [speaking to homeowner] …Tell people like, our ancestors work for us, right?…

[speaking to camera] The lines are long, whereas in Philadelphia, I could walk around the corner to my center and I could be out in 10 minutes. And it’s like, they have to sit here and wait in line, and it is illegal to get people bottles of water. So it’s so lucky that it’s not hot out here because if it was hot, what would we do? People would get discouraged.

Jaisal Noor:  In response, community union and faith-based leaders say they’re trying to out-organize voter suppression by talking directly to millions of voters to help motivate them to overcome the obstacles to voting.

Tiffani Davis:  [speaking to homeowner] My name is Tiffani Davis, I’m from Local 23 UNITE HERE.

Speaker 3:  We need someone to stand up for us. We need labor. We are the force. We are the force. If it wasn’t for us, the world wouldn’t run, really.

Jaisal Noor:  A record 1.8 million Georgia voters cast ballots during early voting, which tends to favor Democrats. But this period was shortened from two weeks to one. And there’s fear that long lines at some polling sites in heavily Black areas could deter voters on election day.

In the days leading up to the election, President Joe Biden, who has called himself the most pro-union president, moved to prevent railroad workers from striking for paid sick leave against bosses who have raked in record profits. It remains to be seen if this move will alienate the labor movement, a key democratic base that’s played an outsized role in their recent electoral success.

For The Real News, this is Jaisal Noor in Atlanta, Georgia.

Jaisal Noor

Jaisal is currently the Democracy Initiative Manager at the Solutions Journalism Network and is a former TRNN host, producer, and reporter. He mainly grew up in the Baltimore area and studied modern history at the University of Maryland, College Park. Before joining TRNN, he contributed print, radio, and TV reports to Free Speech Radio News, Democracy Now! and The Indypendent. Jaisal's mother has taught in the Baltimore City Public School system for the past 25 years. Follow him on Twitter @jaisalnoor.