As Election Day approaches, unions representing Palm Beach County School District workers have been pitching in to sell the county’s sales tax referendum to voters.
The stakes in the referendum are high for the county’s public schools and municipal governments, which together would bring in an estimated $2.7 billion in new money over the next decade if it is approved.
Most of the money would be used for repairs, purchasing new material and new construction projects. It would raise the county’s sales tax from 6 to 7 percent.
The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union-Florida Public Services Union, which represents thousands of school district employees as well as West Palm Beach city workers, has been canvassing minority neighborhoods in an attempt to get residents there to support the proposed sales tax increase.
In recent weeks, union workers and volunteers estimate they have knocked on more than 20,000 doors around the county, mostly in predominantly minority neighborhoods, said Afifa Khaliq, a union spokeswoman. She said the union has spent more than $300,000 on campaign material, paid canvassing and media ads.
Union workers will benefit indirectly from much of the spending as their working facilities improve. But Alphonso Mayfield, president of SEIU Florida, said another factor was the quality of life for union members, many of whom are blue-collar workers who would see improvements to nearby roads, schools and parks.
“As a union we have a very specific mandate,” Mayfield said. “But we always view the work being done in our members communities as a part of our work as a union.”
He added that he sees the campaign as “about real investment in our communities.”
“It is about time that we stand up to get real power for the black, brown and white working families,” he said.
The county’s public teachers union, the Classroom Teachers Association has also endorsed the referendum and has been contacting its members to remind them to support it, union president Kathi Gundlach said.
Election Day is Nov. 8.