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High-Tech Campaigning Helps
Win Philly for Obama-Biden

December 17, 2008 

Philadelphia Local 98’s efforts on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket may not make it into the history books that tell the story of the 2008 presidential election. But the local’s high-tech communication effort was reported on in USA Today and Politico.com and has been studied by the political science department at UCLA.

Months before Election Day, as the news media speculated about whether racial divisions in voting would spoil Barack Obama’s chances in the Pennsylvania, Local 98’s Business Manager John Dougherty knew something special needed to be done.

Sure, he could mail out a glossy flyer comparing Obama’s pro-labor record to Sen. John McCain’s dismal lack of support for working families.  But, why, not go a step further, he reasoned, and make his pitch directly to the members at home or in their cars.

So Dougherty got together with some other union leaders and key state political figures and produced a 60-minute message which ends with Obama’s resounding acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention.  He loaded the message onto  MP3 players and mailed them to 5,000 Local 98 members at a cost of $50,000.   

“Race is a difficult issue in Philadelphia,” says Dougherty, who had supported Obama throughout the primaries, despite Gov. Ed Rendell and Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter’s support for Sen. Hillary Clinton. “Local 98 was out on an island,” says Dougherty, who was near the front row in Constitution Center when Obama gave his address on race after the controversy concerning the remarks of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

The MP3 features straight talk on the issues facing working families from Dougherty, Local 98 President Brian Burrows, Assistant Business Manager Mike Hnatowski and Political Director Bob Henon. Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Rep. Pat Murphy (D-Pa.), and Philadelphia AFL-CIO President Pat Gillespie join the pitch.

The MP3 mailing was the apex of a several-months long “Vote Your Job” campaign, says Dougherty. “To this day, members tell me what a great tool it was,” he says.  There were one or two copies in every corner of the city, and even a long-time political adversary thanked him for having a tool to use in his community to build support for Obama, says Dougherty. The MP3 appeared on Craig’s List, the Internet shopping service, for $200.

“President-elect Obama’s whole campaign in Pennsylvania was based upon receiving a major plurality in Philadelphia,” says Dougherty.  From every indication, Local 98’s “Vote Your Job” campaign and the strong efforts of the city’s building trades were decisive in winning that plurality.