Georgia runoffs are ground zero for workers and their allies
Lee Saunders, president of AFSCME says his union is making a major effort in Georgia, aiming to take control of the Senate away from GOP Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. | afscme.org

It’s too bad Ray Charles, Hoagy Carmichael, and Stuart Gorrell aren’t with us anymore. Their song, “Georgia On My Mind” is a perfect description of the Peach State’s role as ground zero for control of the U.S. Senate in the next Congress—a vital issue to workers nationwide.

That’s because unless Democrats Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, unseat GOP Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in Jan. 5 runoffs, Senate control will remain in the hands of the anti-worker Republicans, marshaled by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

Which would again make the Senate a graveyard for pro-worker legislation, from the Protect The Right To Organize Act to multi-billion-dollar measures to aid workers, cities, states, and schools slammed by the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuring forced closures and economic depression.

The two Georgia races, in which early voting has already started, are vital to U.S. Senate control. Other than President-elect Joe Biden, whose Electoral College victory over GOP Oval Office occupant Donald Trump was again confirmed when the nation’s electors voted on Dec. 14, the Democratic drive on Nov. 3, in one word, flopped.

Unionists toiled hard to elect pro-worker hopefuls down the ballot, along with Biden, including in almost a dozen Senate races. The net gain: One. That left the GOP with 50 seats in next year’s Senate, which starts Jan. 3, compared to 48 for Democrats, two Democratic-leaning independents and the two Georgia seats up for grabs.

Pro-union forces also lost seats in the U.S. House. And two state legislative houses—important for redistricting next year—flipped, both to the GOP, enlarging its majority at that level.

So workers and their allies need to win both Georgia seats to produce a 50-50 tie, which incoming Vice-President-Elect Kamala Harris, now a Democratic senator from California, would break.

“We are facing two crucial runoff elections that will decide the difference between a pro-worker majority and an anti-union majority in the U.S. Senate,” the AFL-CIO said in setting up links for state feds, local central labor councils, and local and national unions to phone bank from around the U.S. for unionists to call Georgians.

Who wins in Georgia “will have huge implications on whether important issues like multiemployer pension protection will be resolved,” the Teamsters said. “So Teamsters in Georgia and throughout Joint Council 75 are building off their efforts to educate, register and turnout members to vote during the general election and carrying that right on into these runoffs.”

Union Political Director Tyler Longpine told the Teamsters website that McConnell and the Senate GOP have “been the roadblock for several years in getting the Butch Lewis Act or similar” multi-employer pension reform “legislation enacted.”

“Electing the Rev. Warnock and Ossoff to the Senate would remove that hurdle. If we could elect a Democratic majority in the Senate, we would have a road to the president’s desk and we expect President Biden would sign legislation to fix our pensions,” Longpine said.

By contrast, Loeffler and Perdue “are not friends of workers and working families.” So the Teamsters are using phone calls, texting, social media, and mailings to turn out unionists, their families, and their allies for the two Democrats.

AFSCME, the Coalition for Labor Union Women, the Communications Workers, and the Alliance for Retired Americans are also running phone banks, among others.

“Control of the U.S. Senate is still up for grabs,” said AFSCME President Lee Saunders. “A victory for Ossoff and the Rev. Warnock will create a pro-worker majority that will pass the urgent state and local aid we need. This is all hands on deck. All of us who care about funding the front lines and passing a broader working families’ agenda. We need to pour everything we’ve got in these Georgia races.” AFSCME’s site has a link for volunteers at standupforpublicservice.org/take-action.

CLUW calls its effort text banking “Snappy Hour.” Its members will text Georgia unionists to get out the vote. It’ll train them in phone banking beforehand, CLUW President Elise Bryant said.

“We also just sent a series of postcards to the printer, which will be distributed to our CLUW chapters across the country and then sent off to our union sisters in Georgia,” said Bryant, a News Guild member and vice president of its Washington-Baltimore local.

“This election could not be more important. In 1974, CLUW was founded on the belief that a woman’s place is in her union. That is still true today, and we cannot stop there. That’s why we’re out there getting it done.”

Biden knows how important Georgia is. He won it, the first Democrat to carry the state in 28 years. If Republicans Loeffler and Perdue win again, his recovery program—including worker rights—is effectively stymied.

So Biden’s going down there to campaign on Dec. 15. On Dec. 10, his campaign website set up the Flip Georgia Fund, where donations would be split evenly three ways, between Ossoff’s campaign,  Warnock’s campaign, and the Democratic National Committee.

Trump’s already been to Georgia, sowing discord and confusion in a speech heavy on self-pity, complaints about non-existent vote fraud, and the lie that he, not Biden, won the election. Meanwhile, GOP money for the two races—-regular donations and dark money, too—-totals $440 million and counting.

And Perdue and Loeffler still back Trump to the hilt, even in his efforts to subvert the election and democracy in general. Both supported a Texas- and Missouri-led challenge to all the votes in Georgia and three other key swing states Biden won. By a 7-2 margin on Dec. 11, the U.S. Supreme Court threw Texas and its allies out on their behinds. All three Trump-named justices voted against him.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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