I don't turn out to vote for candidates or a particular political party. Yes, I press a button next to the name of a candidate. And yes, that candidate is typically from an organized party.
But for as long as I've been voting, I come out to cast a ballot for values. In fact, I'm the ultimate "values voter." Because among other things, I value the right of Americans to have a good job and join a union so they have a voice on the job. Of a working mom to be able to take a sick day when her baby has a fever. Of seniors to retire with enough to pay the bills and buy medicine. I value the very right to vote.
It always amazes me that there are politicians willing to mock those values. That they'll aggressively peddle the lie that the union worker, the mom and the senior citizen are the problem when it comes to state budgets. They willfully overlook the corporate tax turncoats doing everything they can to avoid paying their fair share into our economy.
In 2010, a slew of such politicians took over governors' mansions. They caught the American people sleeping -- voter turnout was an anemic 40 percent that November -- and as a result, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, Rick Snyder and likeminded candidates took power. These governors were favorite sons of the tea party and corporate backers like the billionaire Koch brothers, the latter of whom saw in them an opportunity: Here were ideologues willing to do just about anything to crush workers in order to appease corporations.
A horror show unfolded. In Maine, Gov. Paul LePage attacked workers' ability to organize a union and went so far as to remove a mural from the Department of Labor that depicted, well, laborers. In Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett attacked pensions that workers had paid into throughout their careers. (For the record, both governors' pension and organizing rights attacks failed. The mural still hasn't made it back up though.)
Immediately after taking office, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker revoked the longstanding right of workers in the state to collectively bargain for better working conditions and wages. Throughout his term, he was too busy revoking rights and cracking down on citizens singing peacefully in their Statehouse to bother delivering on a job-growth pledge he made while campaigning, and Wisconsin fell to dead last in the Midwest in that category.
Michigan's Gov. Rick Snyder, who vowed not to touch so-called right-to-work laws that even he deemed too divisive, later flip-flopped and rammed such a law through. With the livelihoods of Detroit low-income senior citizens at stake, Snyder and his "emergency financial manager" claimed the city was bankrupt, that seniors' modest pensions were to blame, and then handed billionaire pizza magnate and Detroit Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch roughly $325 million in public taxpayer money for a new stadium.
In Florida, companies connected to Rick Scott's campaign finance chairman won contracts that could yield billions in state taxpayer money. He was the head cheerleader for a massively wasteful drug testing program that was deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
That these governors want to limit early voting and disenfranchise black and young voters through the use of unnecessary ID laws should come as no surprise in 2014. It's an embarrassing reality of today's right wing: They're better off when most folks don't turn out to vote.
We won't give them that advantage this year. At AFSCME, we've recently launched the #TurnOutForWhat campaign on Twitter and Tumblr. People across the country are sharing why they're turning out to the polls on Nov. 4 and they're recruiting others to do the same. It's not just a hashtag; it's a call to action that we will heed on Election Day.
We know the damage the last four years brought under right-wing extremists but we're also aware that the tide is turning in this country. The tea party's ratings are at an all-time low. Companies like Google, Yahoo and Facebook are defecting from the corporate-backed legislative organization, ALEC, in droves.
Working people across this country who had enough of corporate governorship have a chance to keep that momentum going. At this very moment, we're on the ground in Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, Pennsylvania and many other states to restore our values to governors' mansions.
We believe that hard work should bring a fair day's pay and some measure of security when we retire. We believe that women and men trying to make ends meet shouldn't have to shoulder a higher tax burden than corporations. We're not heading to the polls to vote specific candidates or a party out of office, but to vote in the fundamental values that make day-to-day living a little easier for most American families. When we turn out on Nov. 4, we win.