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Unions planning massive Nevada campaign leading to election

Labor-backed groups are putting their organizing muscle and manpower into the 2016 campaign season in Nevada, an effort that will deploy thousands of canvassers and result in hundreds of thousands of voter contacts.

It’s a massive undertaking that labor leaders hope will tip the scales in Nevada, a swing state in the presidential election and ground zero for a hotly contested U.S. Senate race for the open seat of outgoing Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Republican congressman Joe Heck and Democratic candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, a former Nevada attorney general, are facing off for that seat.

The AFL-CIO’s 2016 effort is its largest compared with efforts during prior elections, the organization says. Nevada is one of six battleground states that the powerful AFL-CIO, which backs Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, has made a priority. The other five are Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

“The state is a priority for us because it’s important to get Hillary Clinton elected and Catherine Cortez Masto elected so we have a Senate that we can work with,” AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said in an interview with the Review-Journal. “We’ve been walking in this state since around May and we will continue to beef up the walks.”

MULTIPRONGED APPROACH

It’s a multipronged battle waged on multiple fronts between now and Election Day when voters decide between Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump.

For instance, the AFL-CIO’s ground game goes hand-in-hand with its Working America Coalition, a 3-million member organization that anticipates putting some 100,000 volunteers and staff on the ground nationwide.

In all, the AFL-CIO anticipates making more than 200,000 face-to-face voter contacts in Nevada this election cycle, a figure that doesn’t include phone calls.

In Nevada, the effort has more than 6,000 volunteers and 125 full-time staff, Trumka said.

“This election, unlike any in the past, is going to be a confluence of more things,” Trumka said.

Each week between now and the election, members will get new information about issues to talk about when contacting people about voting. The efforts will include worker-to-worker contacts, leaflets and phone banks. Through super PAC For Our Future, the AFL-CIO can reach out to nonunion workers.

It’s work that often unfolds quietly, away from the headline-grabbing campaign rallies. Sixteen canvassers gathered at Red Ridge Park, in the southwest part of the Las Vegas metropolitan area.

A bag of pins with Clinton’s campaign logo read: “AFL-CIO for Hillary.”

The 16 were given names and addressses of registered voters, each given between 40 and 60 doors to knock on.

“This is one tiny, tiny piece,” said Ryan Mims, an AFL-CIO staffer helping organize the work.

EDUCATING VOTERS

But it’s work that unfolds one door knock at a time, as canvassers checked in with registered voters from both parties, with literature in hand.

Labor groups are determined to avoid a repeat of 2014, when Nevada Republicans swept the races and gained control of the Assembly and state Senate.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, said: “We are mobilizing like we have never mobilized before.”

Those efforts include talking to members and making sure they are educated in advance of Election Day and ready to cast ballots.

The AFL-CIO has about 220,000 members statewide, and 120 different unions are affiliated with the labor federation.

Affiliates include the Culinary Union, and various unions that include police officers, firefighters, nurses and government workers.

Republican candidates in down-ballot races need to disavow Trump, Thompson said. He offers this litmus test: Is Trump someone you would want your children around?

NEW VOTER PUSH

It’s not all about persuading voters to support Clinton over Trump. This year’s program to contact voters in Nevada, called “Never again,” is spurred in part by the 2014 elections.

“In the last election we didn’t play at the level that we had, and we paid for that,” Thompson said. “We saw that in the Legislature where the Republicans controlled literally every chairmanship in the Legislature.”

For the Culinary Union, it’s been a yearlong effort. The union, which represents thousands of bartenders, housekeepers and cocktail servers who work in hotels and casinos, has the goal of registering 10,000 new voters.

“We are slowly but surely chipping away at that,” said Yvanna Cancela, political director for the union.

The union also has partnered with Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, an immigrant advocacy group, to get more than 2,000 people to apply for citizenship, a necessary step to vote.

The yearlong approach is similar to the campaign effort during the 2008 election, Cancela said.

The fall field campaign effort will include about 100 members who take leaves of absence from their regular jobs after Labor Day. They’ll spend time in the field through Election Day, talking to other members and their communities.

Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2904. Find @BenBotkin1 on Twitter.

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