I’ve been reading comments along the lines of “how do we repeat 2012 in 2014?” and I’ve been thinking about that, too. Here’s the thing, though. The 2012 effort was huge, even the small section of it that I witnessed. We had a full-time organizer staying at the house beginning in May, I think, although it may have been earlier. We had canvassing shifts every spring weekend where we ID’ed voters for both Obama and Sherrod Brown. After that, we had people in blue states making phone calls so we could concentrate exclusively on knocking doors to get the “sporadic voters” we had identified out and early voted. We had really, really good lists that were updated constantly, so much so that I had this nice middle aged woman go into fits of laughter election day at 6:30 PM when I was the third person to knock on her door. She was giggling at the lunacy of it all: “I just got back from voting! I swear I did!” We basically followed that woman until she voted. Luckily she liked us and had a sense of humor. That’s separate and apart from the whole voter protection element what with the regional teams of lawyers and all. I’m not clear how that would go in 2014. We had great volunteers, but we also had a full-time organizer who worked 12 hours a day.
My only other experience with folding OFA in where Obama was not on the ballot was 2010-11 in Ohio, and the collective bargaining fight. The collective bargaining effort was run by labor groups and was deliberately and carefully planned as non-partisan and issue-oriented. We were told early on that labor groups did not want a “partisan identifier” on the effort, because Ohio is a 50/50 state and framing it as a partisan issue would repel GOP voters who might otherwise have supported protecting collective bargaining. The thinking was they would dig in if the thing was tied to Obama and reflexively oppose. That turned out to be true, because there were obviously a lot of crossover voters in this 50/50 state with a 61% final result.
But, OFA ran a petition drive at the same time as the collective bargaining petition drive where we gathered signatures to repeal Ohio’s 2010 (latest version) voter suppression law. Everybody won there, because OFA wanted to repeal the voter suppression law in anticipation of 2012 and re-electing Obama and labor wanted to repeal the voter suppression law in anticipation of 2011 and overturning the union-busting law.
A controversial new Ohio elections law was suspended on Thursday as a coalition of Democrats, voting-rights and labor groups submitted over 300,000 signatures to put the law on the fall 2012 ballot. That means the Nov. 8 election — and probably next year’s presidential election — will be run under the same early-voting laws that benefited Democrats in 2008.
So are we talking about campaign organizing in 2014 or issue organizing?
If we’re talking about issue organizing, I personally might be interested in protecting those parts of the health care law that benefit low wage employees. I liked this description of that part of the law, and I think it’s now clear there’s going to be a coordinated effort to resist implementation by large, low wage employers and their lobbyists, legislators and media personalities:
The debate, unfortunately, got bogged down in a lot of nonsense about death panels and socialism rather than focusing on the brass tacks stuff that matters. Low-income workers—the kind of people likely to be working as servers at Denny’s—really will see huge benefits from the law. And the kind of people who own dozens of chain restaurant franchises really will suffer, at least a bit.
The main issue facing chain restaurant owners is the law’s “employer responsibility” provision. If you’re a small employer with fewer than 25 employees, the Affordable Care Act is extremely generous to you and you’ll get special subsidies to help make an insurance plan for your workers affordable. But if you have over 50 employees, then it’s another matter. If everyone on your payroll already gets group health insurance, you’re in the clear. If they don’t, but they’re all paid enough to buy insurance on the new insurance exchanges without a subsidy, then you’re also in the clear. But if you’re employing low-wage workers who’ll get subsidies for their new insurance plans, then you’re going to get taxed to the tune of $2,000 a worker.
We see a lot of low wage workers come through this law office, and low wage uninsured actually pay a lot for health care. There seems to be some sort of myth floating around that they go to the emergency room or clinic and just wave their hand on the way out and the medical care they received is now categorized “uncompensated care” but that isn’t how it works for them. They’re billed for whatever last-ditch medical care they may be lucky enough to get, and a lot of them work out payments with the provider. If they don’t work out payments with the provider the bills go to collection and if the provider sues and gets a judgment they’re subject to having their wages garnished. There’s plenty of uncompensated care received in this country, that’s true, but low wage workers are also paying plenty for health care right now.
My sense is that these employees will be barraged with negative stories and threats from their employers and media on the terrible things that may happen to them if their employers have to pay 2 grand towards subsidized health insurance. I would consider it a real win if we could even make the people who stand to benefit most from the law aware of the facts so they might support implementing the law as written in states like mine. What might OFA/local people do there?