Arpaio, the Unions and the Reconquista

I got involved in the labor movement not because I wanted to negotiate wages, but because I saw it as a vehicle to do massive social change to include lots of people. —Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO

Sheriff Joe Arpaio won a 6th term in Maricopa County, Arizona with only 50.7 percent  of the vote. He beat Democratic challenger Paul Penzone by a little over six points and he had to fight for his political life to accomplish that. As the Arizona Republic wrote of the win, “That’s not a mandate; it’s a warning sign.”

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.

Moreover, they are right — it is a warning sign of what unions are doing with their members’ dues money.  For those who were unaware of what happened in Arizona this past November, UNITE HERE, SEIU and the AFL-CIO were out to get rid of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. First they needed a candidate. Meet Paul Penzone.

Paul Penzone, is a 21 year Phoenix Police Department veteran and also served as the Chief Operations Officer for notMYkid, an allegedly non-profit organization aimed at educating parents and children of the dangers of drug and alcohol abuse. However, the nonprofit, which was founded by onetime Republican Congressional candidate Steve Moak, was used as a marketing arm for his for-profit company that produces home drug testing kits.

Penzone’s grassroots effort and campaign soldiers were supplied by Adios Arpiao (AA). UNITE HERE, a service union, invested their members’ money this year in campaign called Adios Arpaio. Adios Arpaio was a massive voter-registration campaign, aimed at voting out the Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Adios registered 21,447 voters as of September 18, 2012.

With a small army of dedicated high-school kids funded by the union and led by veteran organizers, AA has been silently and relentlessly registering voters to oust Arpaio from office. The high school students, according to one insider, are members of a “reconqusita” group called MEChA and were bussed in from California. The groups’ stated goal is the “reconquering” (Reconquista) of the Southwest United States for Mexico as a “Chicano homeland” called Aztlan.  They call white Americans “colonists” and want them “off their land.”

Adios Arpaio spokeswoman Daria Ovide revealed that the voter registration campaign was made up of 400 volunteers and about 20 paid staff and has been focusing on signing up Latinos. They recruited 2,000 high school students to canvass and register more than 34,000 new voters.

“One thing we know is that everyone we’ve registered is most-likely an anti-Arpaio voter…The majority of the people we’ve been registering are Latinos. Beyond that we’re not tracking,” Ovide stated. Unlike unions, Latinos need Arpaio voted out — for them, this is not a game.

More important than party affiliation is that these 20,000 people are signed up for the county’s Permanent Early Voting List.  Adios Arpaio drills the importance of PEVL into its canvassers, uses new registration forms with a check-off box for PEVL, and encourages people to sign up for PEVL. The significance of signing people up for PEVL is that it is of enormous assistance in the all important get-out-the-vote effort, wherein a group like Adios Arpaio will repeatedly contact voters in the future and urge them to send in their ballots, or to fill them out and hand them over to organizers for delivery.

Two independent expenditure committees are funding Adios Arpaio: Promise Arizona in Action PAC and Campaign for Arizona’s Future PAC, which together have amassed more than $1 million in contributions to date, the bulk of it from the AFL-CIO and the labor union UNITE HERE.

Arpaio’s re-election campaign cost over $7 million.


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