Politics & Government

California unions campaign for Jerry Brown at job sites

Slicing apples and spooning in mouthfuls of food, housekeepers from the Sheraton Grand Hotel are spending a Friday afternoon lunch break talking about politics with union members.

Aamir Deen, an organizer for the labor union UNITE HERE Local 49, sits down at a table, references a flier with a red check next to a picture of Democrat Jerry Brown and explains in English and Spanish why the gubernatorial candidate is union-endorsed over Republican Meg Whitman.

"Jerry Brown, he wants to create more jobs and make the city stronger," he tells workers. "It's very important that you support this guy, not her."

Called a work-site informational blitz, the statewide effort is a major component of the California Labor Federation's campaign to get union members to head to the polls and vote for Brown come Election Day. The blitzes occur at the beginning of every month at about 150 union sites, said Steve Smith, a spokesman for the federation.

In prior elections, the federation, made up of more than 1,200 labor unions, has used work-site blitzes to reach about 20 percent of its members, he said. But in this election, when the economy is on the minds of most voters, unions are targeting about 30 percent more members at various job sites.

"I think economic issues are going to be the determining factor in the election, and I think whoever does a better job in informing voters is going to win," Smith said.

He said the federation plans to reach about 1 million of its members by the Nov. 2 general election.

Darrel Ng, a spokesman for Meg Whitman's campaign, said the work-site blitzes are in line with the amount of independent expenditures labor unions have poured into Brown's campaign.

"The unions have spent more than $18 million to help Jerry Brown. And it's no surprise that they would continue their investment through these tactics," Ng said.

Yet union members say their funding pales in comparison with the $104 million Whitman has spent on her own campaign. They argue they're countering Whitman's television and radio advertisements with more grass-roots organizing — keeping the battle on the ground vs. on the air.

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