AFT-Oregon regularly engages in political and legislative actions on behalf of its locals and members.
What does AFT-Oregon’s political team look like?
AFT-Oregon’s political team includes a number of individuals and groups.
- The Vice President for Political Action is the chair of the Political and Legislative Action Committee (PLAC).
- The PLAC is a group of 5-7 members charged with the political decision making of AFT-Oregon. The PLAC decides, among other things, which candidates and issue campaigns to support and whether to recommend contributing money to a candidate’s or issue’s campaign.
- The Political Action Committee (PAC), a subset of the PLAC, makes the final recommendations to the Executive Council (EC) on monetary contributions to candidate and issue campaigns. The Executive Council then votes individually on all recommendations.
- AFT-Oregon also contracts with an outside political lobbying firm to help achieve its goals.
How does AFT-Oregon endorse candidates?
Every election year, AFT-Oregon’s political team creates a questionnaire which addresses issues such as union rights, education spending, healthcare, and civil and human rights. This questionnaire is sent to all candidates up for consideration for endorsement. Once a candidate has completed and returned a questionnaire, AFT-Oregon invites the candidate to a follow-up interview with the Political and Legislative Action Committee (PLAC). After all of the candidates for an electoral office have been interviewed, the PLAC convenes to decide which candidates to endorse.
What is the difference between an endorsement and a contribution?
An endorsement of a campaign means that AFT-Oregon supports the campaign. A contribution to a campaign is a monetary donation from AFT-Oregon to that campaign. Endorsements usually precede contributions (i.e., your union would show general support for a campaign before it would give money to the campaign). An endorsement may lead to a monetary contribution, but does not need to. An endorsement could lead to other forms of support, such as time volunteered by union members or an advertisement of the campaign through the union’s communications channels. The ways in which your union shows support for a campaign is up to the members of your union and the leaders of the campaigns you decide to support.
Why should our locals get involved in candidate endorsements?
Other groups have their voices heard in elections–union members should, too! Unions can make sure that labor issues are at the forefront of elected officials’ minds.
How can locals get involved in candidate endorsements?
1. Form a Political Action/Education Committee
Political action/education committees can be used to decide 1.) which candidates to endorse, 2.) which pieces of legislation to support/oppose, and 3.) whether to contribute money to a campaign. They can also help with the political education of your membership and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns.
Some locals call their committees the “Committee On Political Education” (COPE). AFT-Oregon calls theirs the “Political and Legislative Action Committee” (PLAC). You can call yours whatever makes the most sense for your local.
Having a political action/education committee helps to ensure fair decision-making regarding candidate endorsements. Your committee can have any number of individuals on it, but it should ideally represent the differences present among your members. If your local has a VP in charge of political action/education, they should head this committee. It may also help to have your Treasurer on the committee, in case you decide to make contributions to a political campaign.
2. Find Out Where Your Members Are
This is important for organizing generally, but especially for political organizing! Knowing where your members are can help you to 1.) learn whose constituents they are, 2.) learn what pieces of legislation will affect them, and 3.) manage political-issue and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) campaigns. If you don’t already have your members mapped out, AFT-Oregon can help!
3. Find Out What Offices Serve Your Members
Your members are served by all sorts of elected individuals: US and Oregon Congress, district courts, county boards of commissioners, city councils, mayors, sheriffs, school boards, and more. Your local can–and should–be involved in all of these races in some capacity. The Oregon State Legislature publishes a lookup tool that maps districts out, and also allows individuals to enter their address and find out which legislators represent them.
4. Create a Candidate Endorsement Process
You can choose to model your local’s endorsement process after AFT-Oregon’s (questionnaire, interview, committee decision); or you can create a whole new process! Whatever you decide, be sure to apply it in the same way to all of the candidates in any race you decide to take part in. That way, neither your members nor any outside individuals can claim that your local has acted unfairly or unethically.
5. Get in Touch with Candidates
Find out who is running for the offices that serve your members. Reach out to them to include them in your endorsement process. To ensure that your local does not appear unfair, if you reach out to one candidate in a race, make sure that you reach out to all candidates in that race.
6. Announce Your Endorsements
Keep the electoral timetable in mind when you begin your endorsement process. There are various dates that are important to remember, including:
- Deadline to file to run for office
- Voters’ pamphlet due date
- Primary and general election days
If you want your endorsements to be included at a certain part of the electoral process, make sure to have your decisions made by that point. Be sure to let AFT-Oregon know of your endorsements–it may help AFT-Oregon with its decision-making and/or could elevate your endorsement to a higher level.