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Union Combats "Enthusiasm Gap" Among Latino Voters

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October 18, 2010

HARTFORD, Conn. - In 2008, 21,000 new Latino voters in Connecticut helped propel their candidates into state and national office. But the dreaded "enthusiasm gap" this year puts those gains in jeopardy.

Kurt Westby, state director of SEIU-32BJ - representing 4,500 janitorial, food service, and other building service workers in the state - says a report from the Pew Hispanic Center shows only 51 percent of Latino voters plan to vote this fall, so his union is running a massive Get Out the Vote effort.

"There's a lot of issues that are very, very important for our members and if we don't get out to vote, we're not going to be heard."

Westby says that at the federal level, stalled immigration reform is a big priority, as is a proposal that would make it easier for workers to vote for a union. He adds that elections for state offices are important, too.

"The governor has a lot to say about wage issues in the state of Connecticut and how workers are generally treated, sick leave legislation, for example, at the state level."

He says his members and other volunteers will be reaching out to Latinos in Hartford, New Britain, Bridgeport, Stamford, Meriden and New Haven.

Melinda Tuhus, Public News Service - CT