Local Political Action
your local has made an endorsement of a candidate, there are numerous ways in
which you can assist that candidate and his or her campaign to be victorious on
election day. It is important to consider these options within the framework of
your budget and available resources. In addition, it is critical to honestly
assess your resources and capabilities in order to ensure you are an asset to
your candidate. Remember, it is better to under-promise and over-deliver on your
ability to contribute to the campaign, rather then over-promise and
matter what your resource limitations, there are a variety of ways to make a
contribution to a campaign. Each method of activism varies as it relates to
cost, time commitment, number of volunteers and other factors. It is important
to consider all of these factors and how they will affect your overall plan when
deciding the best course of action.
Following are some basic ideas to get you and your local
started on political action.
Recruit a key
contact at each fire station or for every shift.
candidate-supported information and volunteer opportunities on bulletin boards
at work, where possible, as well as in your local publications.
education through union publications (i.e. local newsletters, web sites, blast
local membership list, collecting as many email addresses as possible. Email is
a cheap and efficient way to quickly get information to members.
Make sure your
members are registered to vote. If some members are not registered, provide
information on how and where they can register to vote.
to the editor supporting your candidate.
Volunteer to be
a surrogate speaker on behalf of the campaign. As fire fighters and first
responders, you know the unique challenges concerning homeland security and
safety issues in the community. Work with the campaign to find out on what
issues you could be most helpful.
employer will allow, organize a visit to your fire station with the candidate
and invite the media to join.
If you are
coordinating a Fire Ops program, invite the candidate to participate in the
program. Invite the media to join as well.
candidate or issue forum for your members. Or, if your local is too small, host
a community forum on public safety issues, particularly if public safety is an
issue in the campaign.
Volunteers are important
to all effective and successful campaigns. Volunteer activism is a opportunity
for you and your local to assist a campaign regardless of your financial
resources. Remember, in localized races volunteers are just as critical to a
campaign as money is, as these races tend to be low budget campaigns.
Most locals struggle with
volunteer recruitment for political campaigns. The bulk of the volunteering is
conducted by your officers, who are also handling other responsibilities for the
local. Recruiting volunteers begins now! It is never too early to start working
with your local leadership and membership to begin recruiting for the next
election. Many locals make the mistake of waiting until the last few months
before an election to develop a campaign plan and build a volunteer base.
Keep members engaged in
the political process throughout an election cycle. Constant communication with
members will ensure they are up to date on current political issues, understand
those who are currently elected and their job performance, will meet with
potential future candidates and consider upcoming political opportunities in
future election cycles. The more informed a member is, the more likely he are
she is to feel invested in the outcome of an election and, therefore, more
likely to get involved.
The best way to recruit
volunteers from your membership is to have a good political education program.
Invite your friendly incumbent elected officials to speak at union meetings on
legislative matters critical to the fire department. Suggest that elected
officials write a guest editorial column for your union publication or web site.
Host various social events for your members throughout the year, and invite your
friendly incumbents to socialize with your membership.
Perhaps, like many IAFF
locals, you are involved in numerous charity events, such as MDA and others.
When holding these events, invite your political friends to participate in
helping your cause, and at the same time expose your members to your friendly
politicians. The key to building a successful volunteer effort in your local is
to engage your membership early on by educating them not only on your issues,
but on those elected officials who have been there to help you. By introducing
these elected officials to your membership you also allow your members to see
and hear for themselves first-hand the benefits of the local’s political action.
Investing in a good internal political education program early on should pay
dividends later when you are recruiting volunteers.
Following are some helpful
suggestions on building a volunteer team.
volunteer coordinator in the local. The volunteer coordinator’s main
responsibility is to build membership involvement in the political process. A
volunteer coordinator should be well organized and able to donate time to
building a volunteer base.
participate in a variety of different campaign opportunities. It is important
that volunteers are matched up with a job that they are comfortable with doing
and will enjoy. In order to retain members as volunteers, it is also important
to be responsive to their interests/skills. Also take the time to find out what
types of activities each member is most interested in.
problem in securing volunteers today is the limited amount of time a person may
have to volunteer. One way to address this issue is to break down your volunteer
activities into smaller time blocks. Rather than asking members if they are free
on Saturday to participate in a literature drop, ask them if they are available
from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. If you need to cover a full for your literature
drop, recruit volunteers for two shifts (10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m.
to 4:00 p.m.). For some volunteers, activities can become a family affair. For
example, when conducting literature drops, encourage your members to bring their
families along to help for a few hours. End the literature drop with a pizza
party at the local union hall so members and their families can spend time
together afterwards. Not only does this allow you to get your activity
completed, but it fosters closeness within the local. This can also help your
internal political education efforts by having the candidate or someone from the
campaign stop by and thank the members for their help.
Make sure that
volunteer activities are well organized. Many campaigns will be in charge of
organizing the volunteer activities. In many cases, you and other volunteers
will simply need to show up at the agreed upon location, date and time in order
to begin work. Take the time to work with the campaign beforehand to ensure that
they know the number of members attending, the time that they will arrive and
depart and clarify each task the volunteers will be asked to complete. This
will help ensure that a volunteer’s time is used in the most productive way and
will increase the likelihood that they will want to volunteer again.
publications, web sites, email lists and firehouse bulletin boards to notify
members of upcoming volunteer opportunities. The more information and notice
provided to members, the greater likelihood they will be available to help.
volunteer goals for each fire station or shift. If a local has more then one
fire station within the local, set volunteers goals for each station. This will
create a sense of competition and accountability within the local and might
encourage participation. Take the time to recognize the fire stations/shifts
that reach their goals.
Take extra time
to recognize members who volunteer their time. Many locals have a handful of
members who do the bulk of the political action work. It is important to
recognize these members’ extra work so they don’t burn out. Consider
establishing an award for the top five members who volunteer on political action
at the end of each campaign season. Or, perhaps set incentive levels for the
amount of hours a member volunteers. For example, for volunteering 10 hours, a
member receives a T-shirt or coffee mug.
into your political budget for volunteer activities. After going door-to-door
for a candidate, setting up lawn signs, marching in a parade or any other
volunteer activity, it is nice to offer refreshments and food to members who
participated. This will encourage members to participate and reward them for
One way to enhance your
local’s political action is to build a coalition of other like-minded
organizations that will work with you on behalf of your endorsed candidate.
Coalitions and partnerships can increase the number of activists and resources
working on a campaign.
There are a variety of
places to look when building a coalition.
Federations and Central Labor Councils)
Change to Win
(Attorneys, Accountants, Printers and Suppliers)
Officials and Candidates
Veterans Associations (Elks, Rotary and VFW)
Organizations (Chamber of Commerce, Jaycees)
Groups and Churches (Knights of Columbus, Masonic Lodges and Auxiliaries)
Organizations (African American, Latino, Asian)
Organizations (Realtors, Retail Merchants)
Advocates (Kids First and PTAs)
Prevention Groups (Neighborhood Watch)
Once an endorsement is
made, there are several ways in which you can help generate earned media (free)
and publicity for the candidate. Public polling has consistently shown that fire
fighters rank highly in public opinion. A Phoenix Mayoral Survey (1/07) showed
that 85 percent of those polled viewed fire fighters as the most trustworthy in
the community. A Nationwide Canadian Poll (1/07) found that 93 percent of the
community felt that fire fighters were the most trustworthy. A Harris Survey
(7/06) revealed that 86 percent viewed fire fighting as an occupation with
As fire fighters, your
local’s endorsement matters in the community and can make a difference in a
political campaign. While labor-friendly candidates will seek as many labor
endorsements as possible, the endorsement of their local fire fighters is one
that is highly sought. It is important to use the media as an outlet to get that
endorsement known in the community.
Following are examples of
ways in which this can be accomplished.
endorsement press conference for the candidate. This could be held outside of a
fire station (if permissible) or any other setting that will help illustrate
your endorsement. Make sure to coordinate this with the campaign beforehand in
order to maximize the exposure of the endorsement. For example, the campaign may
want to roll out your endorsement with the candidate’s public safety plan. The
IAFF can assist with help in drafting press releases as well.
letter to the editor campaign. Many newspapers limit the number of submissions
one person can make during a certain time period. Start building a list of
volunteers who would be willing to draft and submit letters to the editor on
behalf of a campaign.
campaign a representative of the local to serve as a surrogate campaign speaker
on behalf of fire service and first responder issues. This person would work in
coordination with the campaign to make certain that the message of the local and
the candidate is consistent. Make sure that the person in this capacity is
comfortable with public speaking and working with the media before taking on
You do not have to raise a
lot of money for a candidate to be helpful to his or her campaign. Fundraising
is not just about how much money an event raises, but about the opportunity for
the candidate to meet more people in the community who could become supporters.
Many lower-dollar fundraisers, such as a chili cook-off, allow a lot of people
to attend and to get to know the candidate in a casual setting.
Following are some
suggestions for fundraising opportunities.
fundraising plan based on your budget and goals.
low-dollar fundraiser at your local union hall or similar type of
community-gathering location. The fire fighters could host or co-host with
another supportive organization or the campaign itself.
If the local is
limited in the amount it can contribute because of either campaign finance
limits or limited resources in the local’s PAC fund, the local can always host
an event for the candidate and bundle checks. For exampleif the limit on what
the PAC can contribute to a campaign is $1,000, and you only have the ability to
contribute $500 from your PAC fund,your local can host a fundraiser and spend up
to another $500 (up to your legal limit), allowing attendees to make their
contribution checks payable to the campaign. The local can collect all of these
checks at the event and then bundle them together and deliver them to the
campaign. This is perfectly legal and allows the local to raise additional
contributions for its endorsed candidate over the legal contribution limit.
special assessment of your membership in order to raise money for your own
political action plan or PAC fund.
The IAFF Political Action
department can work with you and your local to coordinate a political action
plan. The IAFF can provide assistance with press releases, campaign materials,
mailing labels, walk lists, phone lists, campaign professional referrals and as
other campaign resources. Call (202) 824-1582 or email
firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.