Page 7 - Work Force February 2022
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Labor fighting to strengthen voting rights
 In today’s often polarizing political environment, strengthening voting rights is key to ensuring the future of our democracy.
CSEA and AFSCME are among the numerous unions and groups that are fighting to protect voting rights.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Dr. King’s family urged people to honor his legacy by demanding the Senate pass the Freedom to Vote Act: John R. Lewis Act.
The voting rights bill would create standards for federal elections to ensure that voters have similar access to the ballot box across the country, including expanding access to early and mail-in voting; streamlining any voter ID requirements (in states that have a requirement); easing voter registration requirements and increasing penalties for any efforts to stop people from voting.
As this edition was going to press, voting rights legislation had been defeated in the U.S. Senate, but labor unions, civil rights groups and other allies will continue the fight.
Voting rights under attack
While the Voting Rights Act that
was enacted in 1965 gave Black voters and other groups more equality at the polls, voting rights are now under siege. In the past year alone, 19 states have passed 34 laws that restrict voting rights, and 389 such bills were introduced in legislatures in 48 states. These bills harm the rights of communities of color, people with disabilities, young people and other underrepresented groups.
Voting rights is an issue of high concern to our union’s Minority Caucus, which at last fall’s virtual Annual Delegates Meeting discussed the need for labor unions to be involved in defeating attempts at voter suppression.
At that session, former Ohio AFL- CIO Secretary-Treasurer Petee Talley noted that voter turnout was very strong in 2020, particularly among Black and other minority voters.
Strong turnout by Black voters in Georgia is widely credited for that state electing President Joe Biden, as well as two pro-worker U.S. senators. Throughout 2021, efforts to suppress votes have sharply increased in many states, particularly among those where voters supported
former President Donald Trump. “We believe many of the voter
suppression bills we are seeing post- 2020 is a direct correlation between the result of who showed up at the polls and who was elected,” Talley said. “Here we are having to defend our right to vote in free elections because people are concerned about who is showing up to vote and they know that if enough people show up, there will be a power shift.”
Talley discussed some of her work in stopping voter suppression legislation. In Ohio, this legislation was proposed quickly after state officials had already passed legislation gutting public sector collective bargaining rights.
Union member support and inclusive voices were key to
stopping both pieces of legislation, with the collective bargaining
law being overturned and voter suppression withdrawn.
CSEA President Mary E. Sullivan noted that voter turnout is crucial in all elections.
“I strongly believe that Joe
Biden would not be in the White House now if it wasn’t for Black women,” Sullivan said. “People got [angry] that they weren’t being recognized and went out to vote. We have to do the same thing in local elections as well because leaders
in Congress started somewhere (in local government). If we don’t learn to home grow our politicians, we will never change the way America works. That’s where the politics begin.”
Mootry Jr. honored with DREAM Humanitarian Award
 BUFFALO — CSEA Western Region Director Robert Mootry Jr. was recently honored with a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. DREAM Humanitarian award.
The award is given by Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown and the Buffalo Division of Citizen Services to individuals who work to promote awareness of biases and prejudices and whose efforts improve the quality of life for citizens of Buffalo by upholding the values of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“From an early age, I was taught to serve, and this award is all about the service we do through our church,” Mootry said. “I’m extremely
honored to win this award.” Mootry has served as Western
Region Director for eight years and was previously a labor relations specialist. Before joining the union’s staff, Mootry was a CSEA member and activist for more than 27 years.
“Rob thoroughly deserves recognition for his efforts to promote the values Dr. King held dear,” CSEA Western Region President Steve Healy said “His contributions have made a big difference in our region in improving the quality of life for minority citizens.”
— Mathew L. Cantore
CSEA staff celebrate Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown’s victory on Election Day. From left, CSEA Director of Legislative and Political Action Fran Turner, CSEA Western Region Director Robert Mootry Jr., Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown, CSEA Director of Member Engagement Adam Acquario and CSEA Political Action Coordinator Chris Rackl.
 February 2022
The Work Force 7

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