Ground Game Seals Big Win for Houston Local 341 Members

December 16 • 2015
Aggressive political action and a strong grassroots campaign by Houston, TX Local 341 paid huge dividends in a December run-off election in the race for mayor. Hundreds of Houston members walked the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and talking to voters to help their endorsed candidate, Sylvester Turner, win on election day.

“I could not be prouder of our members,” says Local 341 President Alvin White. “This election shows what one team working together can accomplish.”

In addition to block walking nearly 50,000 homes of likely voters, Local 341 ran hundreds of radio spots on two top-rated FM stations, sent direct mail to tens of thousands of targeted households and bought online advertising reaching more than 70,000 people. On election day alone, nearly 500 members and friends knocked on 18,000 doors.

Turner, who has been a strong ally of Houston fire fighters in his years in the state legislature, defeated challenger Bill King by just 4,000 votes out of 212,000 votes cast. King maintained that the city of Houston is in trouble because of the fire fighter pension plan, and had made it clear that he would take aim at public pensions if elected.

11th District Vice President Sandy McGhee says, “Local 341 did a great job. Our members made the difference in this election.”

“Our Houston brothers and sisters worked tirelessly to get out the vote, and the hard work showed in a big win in a mayoral race with big stakes for our members,” says General President Harold Schaitberger.

Brian Wilcox, a member of the Local 341 Executive Board who led the ground game effort, is a graduate of the IAFF Political Training Academy. He and Local 341 Trustee Sean Dailey, along with other members of the Executive Board, were the engine behind the grassroots operation.

“The Political Training Academy made all the difference,” says Wilcox. “It taught us how to be effective with the resources available to us. We couldn’t compete financially, but we had a brand and a voice that matters. When fire fighters talk, people listen.”

Over the months leading to the election, more than 75 percent of Local 341 members engaged in the campaign in some fashion, including an epic number of members who went door-to-door and worked to get out the vote. Members of the Executive Board hit all 94 fire stations to get the membership involved. “We said, ‘if you care about your pensions, you need to get out there and help us.’ Together, we showed City Hall that fire fighters are a force to be reckoned with,” says White.

Initially, Turner appeared to be the frontrunner in the race, but as the pension issue became the focal point, he was suddenly the underdog – and the only candidate not talking about pension reform. “He was the only one standing up for fire fighters,” says White.

He adds, “We are grateful for the support of the IAFF in this election and never would have succeeded without our union’s help,” says White. “When we asked for assistance, we had the full support of the International. This is what membership in the IAFF is about.

“We thank General President Schaitberger, Sandy McGhee and the rest of the IAFF board and staff, and members around the nation for helping us elect Turner.”

Over the last two election cycles, in city after city – Alexandria, Virginia; Boston, Massachusetts; Charlotte, North Carolina; Chicago, Illinois; Detroit, Michigan; Indianapolis, Indiana; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Portland, Maine; Quincy, Massachusetts; Salt Lake City, Utah; San Francisco, California; Washington, DC – IAFF locals have helped elect friendly mayors to office, and their efforts are now paying off for members across the country.