For immediate release
January 5, 2021
Hospitality Workers’ Union UNITE HERE: Unprecedented Direct Voter Contact Paves Way for Democrats to Do the Impossible, Win Georgia Senate Races
UNITE HERE’s 1,000 union canvassers will hit 1.5 million doors to elect Warnock and Ossoff
ATLANTA—As voters across Georgia head to the polls this election day, hospitality workers are pointing to conversations on the doors directly with voters as the reason Democrats Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff could be elected to the U.S. Senate, despite enormous obstacles to voting that have historically favored Republican candidates.
A relic of Jim Crow-era policies aimed at diluting the influence of Black voters, Georgia’s runoff elections historically favor Republican candidates. For Democrats to have a chance at victory, voter turnout among Black voters and other voters of color is critical. Members of UNITE HERE, North America’s hospitality workers’ union, have helped to make that critical difference by mounting the largest door-to-door canvassing operation in its history.
- Over 1,000 union housekeepers, cooks, dishwashers and airport concessions workers are canvassing in the Atlanta metro area and Columbus.
- By the end of Election Day, they will have knocked on over 1.5 million doors as part of a larger 9 million-knock statewide effort to get out the vote for Rev. Warnock and Jon Ossoff.
- Each day, union members have 15,000 face-to-face conversations with Georgians about the runoff race.
In conversations with voters, UNITE HERE canvassers stress the urgent need to take back the Senate. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers across Georgia have dealt with unprecedented job loss, a government response that has been “too little, too late,” and loss of employer-provided healthcare.
“I’ve dedicated my life to this election because the stakes are so high for my family,” said Shauna Swearington of Atlanta, a UNITE HERE canvasser and member of UNITE HERE Local 23, who was laid off from her job as a server at the Westin Peachtree Plaza after 25 years. “I’m working to elect Warnock and Ossoff because I deserve Senators who will fight for workers like me, not vote against us.”
After COVID-related shutdowns resulted in 98% layoff rates earlier this year, UNITE HERE hospitality workers like Shauna took to electoral politics, organizing the largest union door-to-door canvassing operation in the country for the presidential election. This effort on the ground in Nevada, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and Florida knocked on the doors of over three million voters, helped drive the unprecedented turnout of the 2020 presidential election, and made a critical difference for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Now, UNITE HERE members are an essential part of the coalition of organizations that has stood up the largest ground operation in the history of Georgia, and are knocking doors to flip the Senate.
“We knew this election would be an uphill battle, and that the core challenge of this runoff was maintaining enthusiasm and encouraging voter turnout. The best way to do that is by having one-on-one conversations directly with voters at their doorsteps, and we have been doing that 15,000 times a day,” said UNITE HERE Secretary-Treasurer Gwen Mills, “This coalition’s historic ground game is the key reason that Democrats have a shot to win the Senate in Georgia.”
UNITE HERE Local 23 is a labor union that represents 3,000 hospitality workers at military bases, hotels and the Atlanta Airport in Georgia. Through grassroots organizing they’ve been able to raise wages and gain crucial workplace protections.
UNITE HERE has over 300,000 members working in the North American hospitality industry. Over 75% of its members are still out of work as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, down from a peak of 98%. During the 2020 presidential election UNITE HERE ran the largest union door-to-door canvassing operation in the United States.