Glossary of Terms for Word on the Street

by Tahir Duckett—Assistant Field Director

AFL-CIO: The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. The AFL-CIO is a voluntary federation of 55 national and international labor unions representing 10 million working men and women across the country. Since its founding in 1955, the AFL-CIO and its affiliate unions have been the single most effective force in America for enabling working people to build better lives and futures for working families.

Canvass: v: to engage people in action by collecting signatures for a petition, registering voters and recruiting new members. Working America canvasses to invite people to join our organization and give them the opportunity to take action on important working family issues;

n: a group of people or office who knock on doors to engage people as described above. Can also mean a time period during which a group of people knocks on doors (i.e. The canvass in Northern Virginia started on Monday).

Canvasser: Anyone who knocks on doors to engage people as described above.

Crew van: A minivan packed full of canvassers—our method of getting to turf each night. Our canvassers spend time on the way to turf doing more training, polishing their skills, and getting to know each other better.

Goals: Each night, canvassers set measurable goals for the success of their evening in the field. These goals allow us to build a powerful organization that can effectively fight for good jobs and a just economy.

Grassroots: (adj.) A bottom-up approach to changing the way our government operates. We believe that an approach that starts with the people and gains strength in numbers is the best way to stand up for the issues that matter most to working families. (n.) the people representing the basic, direct interests of our members.

Hot contacts: Sometimes we sign up a member who is motivated to go above and beyond just being a member of Working America. Sometimes they have heartbreaking stories about how the system has taken advantage of them…or fantastic stories about how they’ve managed to fight back against the odds. Sometimes they are just incredibly interested in stepping up and doing something for their community. We call these members “hot contacts”.

Issues: Health care, good jobs, retirement security, outsourcing, education, and fair pay—the issues that matter most to our members and what we talk about while canvassing. This can include legislation about these issues that is currently being considered by federal, state, or local governments.

Labor Walk: A canvass led by or conducted primarily by labor union members.

SCHIP: The State Children’s Health Insurance Program, responsible for covering children whose parents cannot afford to buy them health insurance. SCHIP currently provides comprehensive health coverage to millions children. Democrats, and some Republicans, in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate fought to increase funding and expand the program to cover 10 million eligible children, but President Bush vetoed three different bills that both the House and Senate had passed to accomplish this.

Sides partner: We like to pair our canvassers up to work through their turf, check in with each other throughout the night, and give each other encouragement and tips. That way, there’s always another Working America canvasser nearby.

Signed up: When an individual we canvass agrees to become a member of Working America.

Turf : Anywhere we canvass. Sometimes this refers to an entire canvass area, and sometimes it refers to an individual canvasser’s area.

Writing letters: Our members don’t just sign up—they take action. This year alone, Working America members have taken over 45,000 actions to tell their legislative officials what they think about issues ranging from SCHIP to the Employee Free Choice Act that restores workers’ right to form a union on the job. They write letters, sign postcards, make phone calls, and do much more.