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Union: Stay at Home (Unless You’re Campaigning for Georgia Dems)

California UNITE HERE sends members to GA despite support for lockdowns

A UNITE HERE union member / Getty Images
• December 22, 2020 5:00 am

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Days before calling for a "true lockdown" and closure of "all nonessential businesses and activities," a California labor union dispatched members to Georgia to canvass for Democratic Senate hopefuls Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.

UNITE HERE Local 11—a "progressive" hospitality union based in Los Angeles—signed a Wednesday "Lock Down Now" letter asking California officials to "enact stay at home orders that are strict enough to truly suppress the virus by closing all nonessential businesses and activities." Just days earlier, however, the union partnered with the New Georgia Project to send a group of members to knock on doors for Ossoff and Warnock. The union has since touted its work to "take back the Senate" in the Peach State, sharing videos from the ground in Atlanta.

A number of California Democrats have been caught breaking their own coronavirus rules in recent weeks. Gov. Gavin Newsom appeared to dine indoors at a posh Napa Valley restaurant in November—one night later, San Francisco mayor London Breed celebrated a friend's birthday at the same restaurant. At the time, San Francisco restaurants were banned from seating more than six diners at one table.

UNITE HERE Local 11 did not respond to a request for comment on if it considers political canvassing to be an "essential activity." While the letter signed by the union stresses the need to "support our most vulnerable working families," UNITE HERE Local 11 has demanded dues payments from workers left unemployed by the coronavirus.

Ossoff has also signaled support for temporary shutdowns. During a November CNN appearance, the Democrat said that it would be "malpractice" to oppose such measures if they were endorsed by "the CDC and its leadership." Ossoff's and Warnock's Republican opponents, meanwhile, have campaigned against new coronavirus lockdowns.

"I want to reopen our economy. I want to ensure Georgia small businesses and workers have relief," Warnock's opponent, Sen. Kelly Loeffler, tweeted in November. "Democrats want lockdowns—and they've blocked relief time and time again."

UNITE HERE Local 11 is not the only California interest group that has gone to bat for Ossoff and Warnock. The Democrats raised $26 million from Californians between Nov. 4 and Nov. 23, compared with just $4.4 million from Georgians, according to Bloomberg News.

The Los Angeles union is one of many out-of-state organizations campaigning with the New Georgia Project, a voter-registration nonprofit founded by Stacey Abrams. Warnock also served as CEO of the group from 2017 until February 2020. During his tenure, the group failed to pay thousands in unemployment insurance. The nonprofit is now under investigation for allegedly sending ballot applications to non-Georgia residents.

Ossoff and Warnock will face Republican senators David Perdue and Loeffler, respectively, on Jan. 5. Republicans must hold one of the two seats to maintain a 2021 majority in the upper chamber.