Young members in the Third District are gearing up for November’s election and managing to inject some friendly rivalry into the process.

The district’s RENEW leadership started a voter registration competition in March, pitting local chapters against one another to see who can sign up the most new voters before the Third District progress meeting in May.

“Voting – having a voice in politics – is so important,” said Third District Youth Caucus co-chair Chris Erikson Jr., who is spearheading the effort. “This competition is a great way to engage our young members and to spread the word that working people need to be heard at the ballot box.”

That’s part of the message being taken around the country by international representative and Grassroots Political Coordinator Tarn Goelling, who worked with Erikson and the youth caucus leadership to get the registration idea off the ground. Goelling has spent much of recent months travelling to locals and helping to train and organize political coordinators to prepare for November’s elections.

“Our members are under attack in state legislatures all over this country,” Goelling said, “and most people aren’t paying attention to the damage being done. These lawmakers are going after construction wages, collective bargaining and our local unions’ ability to represent our members. They want unions to disappear, plain and simple.”

Citing recent right-to-work and prevailing wage attacks in West Virginia, Missouri, Kentucky and Virginia, she added, “If our members don’t understand that this is happening right under their feet, they are going to wake up without any representation at all.”

Third District Vice President Don Siegel, who has spent years encouraging young member engagement, echoed those concerns, recognizing his district’s RENEW chapters for their work giving a voice to working men and women. “Voting is such a timely issue, and I’ve always said that if we want active union members, we have to get them active in the community first.”

For Goelling, having young members involved in the important business of political organizing is exciting to watch. “Young workers are so creative, and having them take part in voter registration and the political side of things means we’ll keep coming up with new innovative ways to organize.”

Goelling’s goal is for every one of the IBEW’s more than 725,000 members to be registered to vote well before November rolls around, and the Third District’s young members are hoping to do their part with this competition.

“There are so many important races going on this year, from city councils and state legislatures right up to the White House, and we want our young members to be a part of electing representatives who are going to fight for working people at every level,” Erikson said.

“If we don’t step up and speak for ourselves in these important races,” Goelling said, “you’d better believe somebody else will step in and speak for us, and I doubt we’ll like what they have to say. Voting, registering like-minded friends and neighbors, and being engaged in the political process is the best way to make sure the attacks on working people don’t go unanswered.

Home page photo credit: Photo used under a Creative Commons license from Flickr user Play City.