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SEIU Local 99 Wins Highlight Value of Field Operations

Hillel Aron | March 7, 2013

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SEIU Executive Director Courtni Pugh

Unlike the closely watched Coalition for School Reform and the teachers union, SEIU Local 99 — which represents LAUSD classified employees like cafeteria workers and custodians — came out of Tuesday’s election an unequivocal winner.

The union was two for three on election night, having backed both Monica Garcia and Steve Zimmer — and could end up three for three if District 6 frontrunner Antonio Sanchez wins in May — though few paid attention.

“We did some incredible work,” said Courtni Pugh, Executive Director of SEIU Local 99.  “It just fell off the radar screen.”

SEIU spent significant money on Independent Expenditures — $550,000 plus another $170,000 through the LA County Federation of Labor, according to the City Ethics Commission’s website — although not as much as in 2011. It also spent, according to one source, another $200,000 on “in kind” contributions, where union staff members shift their duties from working for the union to working on a union campaign.

But perhaps most important was SEIU’s field organization. “That is the one thing the SEIU is known for,” said Pugh, estimating 100,000 doors knocked on and 40,000 voters saying they were going to support the SEIU slate. “That’s why we are a coveted endorsement.”

The field campaign may not have led to a measurably higher voter turnout, but it may have made an important difference given the low numbers, according to Pugh.  “We started walking and calling in January, before the election was even on anyone’s radar,” she said.  “You can’t replace someone that looks like you and talks like you knocking on your door.”

Previous posts: Local 99, LAUSD’s “Other” Labor UnionSEIU Endorses Garcia, Zimmer and Sanchez

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