Their Aim Is to Persuade Indecisive People to Vote

By Harry Kelber | The American Labor Movement | October 19, 2012

Both the Democratic and Republican Election Campaign Committees are invading the privacy of millions of Americans, using in-depth research to determine the habits, social values and economic circumstances of people they call "low-propensity voters" -that refers to a massive number who have not yet decided whether or not to vote.

Armed with lots of personal data, volunteers are visiting workers in their homes or at their job sites to make a face-to-face pitch on why they should vote -and, of course, for the right political party. The tactic is being used, especially in battleground states like Colorado, North Carolina and Ohio.

Volunteers can pick a subject that they know their targets are interested in: the job market; the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; taxes; or lighter subjects like their brand of beer; the standing of their baseball team, and the latest local scandal. It’s not difficult for volunteers to switch to the subject of voting on Election Day.

But volunteers can also gather data referring to health problems and financial difficulties, a clear violation of privacy that can harm individuals, even though the strategy is designed to promote good citizenship.

Tons of literature are being distributed by the competing campaigns and streams of advertisements promote voter registration. Shouldn’t that be enough to persuade people to vote? Why should they have to risk their privacy to make an obvious point?

Labor Should Protest the Invasion of Privacy

It can be dangerous to allow both Democrats and Republicans a free hand to gather a wealth of information about workers, especially union members, without their approval or actual knowledge.

How do we know that the "in-depth research" will not be used against unions at the bargaining table and in strike situations?

This leads us to an oft-repeated question: when will the AFL-CIO re-establish its Education Department, which it eliminated several decades ago?

Isn’t it time to end the silence from our leaders and start keeping members informed about what’s being done in their interests?

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