We hear it every time there’s an election year: Get out and vote to effect change in your communities. And it’s true; voting is one of the most important tools we have to put our political values into practice. You can bet I’ll be casting a ballot this November — but voting is just one of many tools available to us, and just voting is not enough.
Our communities are facing major challenges right now, from right-wing attacks on public education to threats to reproductive rights. With so much going on, it’s easy to feel powerless or overwhelmed. But one of the most important things I’ve learned during my time as a union leader is that when working people come together, and fight together, for the future we believe in, we’re capable of accomplishing incredible things.
And, as union members and leaders, we don’t just bargain on behalf of members and end our activism there — we believe in supporting and uplifting all working people, members and non-members alike, and working toward a more equitable society. And to make that happen, we need all hands on deck.
Most voters know that our state’s top executive officials are up for reelection. Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer faces Republican Tudor Dixon, Attorney General Dana Nessel is up against Republican Matt DePerno and, and Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson is running against Republican Kristina Karamo. These elections are incredibly important.
But there are important elections up and down the ballot, from state legislative races to state and local school board races to the Michigan Supreme Court and three statewide ballot measures. In these elections, the future of our communities is at stake — and that includes public education, voting rights and reproductive freedom.
Every election cycle, AFT Michigan endorses candidates for various elected positions based on their support for public schools, students and educators — and we like to think our name carries some weight. But we also recognize that our endorsement alone is not enough, which is why we don’t stop there. We also take action to contribute to the success of campaigns we care about, both at the organizational level and by mobilizing our members to get involved.
You have the opportunity, and the obligation to your community, to do the same, in statewide campaigns or in small races that affect your local community. For some, the easiest and most straightforward way to contribute is to make a donation — and if you can spare anything, every dollar counts. But financial contributions aren’t the only way to make a difference.
If you have a few free hours on an evening or weekend, plenty of campaigns are looking for people to assist with phone banking or canvassing. Whether you choose to make calls or knock doors, these one-on-one interactions are a critical part of persuading people to turn out and make their voices heard.
Your efforts also don’t need to be officially linked to a campaign to matter. Even just talking to your friends and family about the upcoming election, sharing resources about how and where to vote, and discussing the issues that matter most to you in an honest and up-front way can make a world of difference. After all, the people we trust most tend to be the people who are close to us already, which means no one is better positioned to reach out to your loved ones than you are.
Election Day is less than three weeks away, and people are already voting via absentee ballot, but there’s still time to make an impact. To borrow words from a famous adage, no one can do anything but everyone can do something. That’s a lesson we must take with us through this election cycle and into the years to come, and I would go even further — not only can we all do something, but we all must do something.
Not everyone’s contributions will look the same, because we all have different talents and live in different circumstances, but my colleagues and I, along with our incredible members, are committed to using our time and resources to uplift the issues that matter most to us. I urge you to do the same.
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