Service Employees International Union Announces $150 Million National Investment in 2020 Cycle, with Virginia as One of Eight Top Targeted States
Historic program will drive robust field effort and paid media strategy to elect pro-worker candidates up and down the ballot
This is the biggest and earliest voter engagement investment in SEIU’s history and is aimed at expanding the electorate, especially in Black, Latino and Asian American communities
Richmond, VA — Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced a $150 million national voter engagement and get-out-the-vote program for the 2020 election cycle with Virginia as one of eight top targeted states. The investment in Virginia, a key battleground state, will drive a robust field effort and paid media strategy to elect pro-worker candidates up and down the ballot. The 2020 SEIU program — fueled largely by voluntary political contributions from SEIU members — advances a pro-worker, Unions For All agenda that will ensure fair wages for working people, delivers quality, affordable healthcare for all, creates real solutions to fix our cruel immigration system and makes real progress to combat climate change. In Virginia, a key battleground state, SEIU will invest heavily with plans to connect with nearly 400,000 voters.
This historic commitment, which is the largest voter engagement investment in the union’s history, builds on the success of the 2018 midterms and 2019 elections. Virginia Democrats now control the state legislature for the first time in over two decades, increasing the chance for SEIU to successfully push pro-worker policies that would expand collective bargaining rights, make Virginia residents eligible for drivers’ licenses regardless of citizenship status, and raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour. In 2019, the Commonwealth ranked as both the top state for business and the worst state for workers.
“The past few elections have shown that working families in Virginia reject politicians who put corporations and the super wealthy first,” said Jaime Contreras, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU, which represents over 5,000 property service workers in Virginia who knocked on doors to help turn the Commonwealth from red to deep blue. “32BJ members are more motivated than ever to talk to fellow working men and women who agree that Trump’s politics of hate has no place in Virginia.”
“Our efforts make a real difference in elections, and now we are seeing the difference that elections make in our daily lives,” said Maria Martinez, a 32BJ janitor from Falls Church who is part of a coalition pushing bills to increase Virginia’s minimum wage to $15 and make residents eligible for drivers’ licenses regardless of citizenship status. “I have an important responsibility to make sure Virginians exercise their power the way I have so that we all have an equal shot at a better life.”
“The 2020 election will be a defining choice for our families and our communities. So many aspects of our life will be at stake: family-supporting wages, affordable healthcare, racial justice, a livable climate, voting rights, the opportunity to join together in unions, and how we treat new Americans who have come here as immigrants,” said SEIU’s International President, Mary Kay Henry. “Our strength comes from the two million hardworking men and women who make up SEIU and we’re going to stand together to deliver real change in 2020. We are proud to announce this historic, unprecedented investment by SEIU to elect leaders up and down the ballot who will fight for working people. Together, we will mobilize and we will win.”
SEIU’s worker-led electoral program will span over forty states, with a focus in an additional seven key battleground states – Colorado, Florida, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. In these combined eight battleground states, SEIU plans to engage over six million voters, with a particular focus on expanding the electorate in black and brown communities. SEIU will also team up with other partner organizations, both nationally and in key states to achieve success.
Through this work, SEIU members and organizing leaders have continued to make their voices heard on the 2020 campaign trail. Democratic presidential candidates have stood on strike lines, held roundtables with workers to discuss their plans to make it easier to join a union and walked a day in the life of working people from California to Pennsylvania. Workers are demanding Unions for All as a solution to win higher pay, strengthen communities, amplify workers’ voices in politics and ensure a better future for all.
Public support for unions has hit near record high in recent years. The most recent Gallup poll in Aug. 2019 found public support for unions at 64 percent – nearly the highest level in 50 years – including 82 percent of Democrats and 61 percent of Independents. As public support for unions has grown, worker activism on the job has surged. In 2018, more workers in the U.S. went on strike or participated in work stoppages than any year since 1986, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
SEIU’s 2020 voter engagement program, which began in January, includes a robust field effort to knock on millions of doors, text voters, and drive a robust paid media strategy in multiple languages. SEIU plans to engage both union members and non-members.
With 175,000 members in 11 states, including over 20,000 in the D.C. area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country. 32BJ recently celebrated a Democratic sweep in Virginia, after a month-long GOTV effort by a dozen member volunteers who knocked on doors in key races.
SEIU Virginia 512 is one of the state’s fastest growing grassroots organizations. County employees and Home Care providers make up the 3,000 member organization, which fights for good jobs and quality public services for all Virginians.