Examining Labor Union Political Mobilization Tactics in the Modern Campaign Context
Hanmer, Michael J.
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In this project, I will discuss topics in American political behavior, specifically, the role labor unions play in determining the political participation of their membership. In the face of diminishing resources, declining membership, and unfriendly state legislatures, labor unions employ a whole host of mobilization tactics to achieve desired electoral outcomes. Traditional strategies such as in-person or member-to-member contact, mail or phone contact, and online digital engagement has all required a fresh start to keep up with the changing campaign environment. This project offers three different examinations of field experiments conducted by labor unions in three different electoral contexts. The first experiment tests two competing Get Out the Vote (GOTV) mobilization methods in the August 2014 primary elections. Union members in two states were randomly assigned to receive: 1) A letter grading their past voting performance or; 2) a letter encouraging them to ‘Make a Plan’ to vote or; 3) were placed in the control group and received no contact. The treatments pushed members either to return their mail ballots or to vote early, in-person. The second experiment investigates what type of phone script is most effective at encouraging union members to connect to their state representative’s office, and to advocate for or against a certain piece of legislation. This chapter builds on one previous field experiment to determine whether these phone scripts are a viable way to encourage members to interact with their elected officials, and which type of script language encourages union members (and constituents) to contact their legislator. Finally, my third field experiment focuses on two canvassing experiments conducted by the state affiliate of a national labor union before the April 1st, 2014 election. Targets of the membership organization were randomly assigned to treatment and to control groups. Post-election turnout records determined that the canvass successfully stimulated turnout among those who received a face-to-face contact from the labor union