Ms. Peaches The Voting Lady Explains How to Soft Talk a Texas Voter

Leo W. Gerard USW President Emeriti

If you think Texas is a red state, you have not met Almeda Dent. She is a political whirlwind. She is a voting dynamo. She is 67, a retired member of USW Local 2083 in Houston, and now working 24 hours a day to ensure Texas shows what she believes are its true blue colors at the polls this fall. 

She is in Philadelphia this week as a delegate for Hillary Clinton, attending daytime meetings with the USW and working the convention floor at night because, as she explained to me, her goal is to get as many Democrats elected as possible, up and down the ticket.

Now, every TV commentator I know will tell you Texas is a red state. But Almeda, who lives there, and knows the people and the community, says that’s not so. Though it votes red now, she says the un-voting majority soul of the state is blue. So she wants to register voters and get them to the polls and change the tide in the state.

Her interest in politics goes way back, to when she was a student at Texas Southern University in 1969. She double majored in political science and computer science. She left after three years to take a job at Texas Instruments, and then moved to Reed Tools, where she joined the USW. There she was elected secretary to the local union and received training from the AFL-CIO, which furthered her political skills and activism. 

She has served on the board of the A. Philip Randolph Institute for Texas and now is vice chair of the Texas Coalition of Black Democrats and on the board of Texas Democratic Women in addition to all of her other volunteer work to get out the vote.

It’s clear that Almeda enjoys going door-to-door to register voters and get out the vote because she loves people. She said more than talking points, stories are the most persuasive. 

She told me this tale, for example. She had a friend who she agreed to disagree with about welfare and food stamps. He was working and informed her that he didn’t like paying taxes to support these programs. 

A few months later, that man was laid off and needed to apply for food stamps to feed his family. He went early in the morning to be first in line, but there already was a big group ahead of him. So he returned later to try to be last in line because he was ashamed and didn’t want anyone to see him.

Almeda told me that man came to realize by this experience that the food stamps program is essential.  She recalled telling him that he shouldn’t have to experience poverty to understand that it hurts and that we all should work together as a community to help cure it.

She said she knew the man liked to pray, and after this event, she urged him to pray for the happiness of everyone, not just himself or his own family, but for his family and his neighbors and his community and his world. Everyone.

She is a parable-telling, vote-getting Democrat, through and through. And she’s an experienced block-by-block voter registration magician.

She has gotten young people registered by holding a concert for which registration was admission. She has convinced young people to volunteer for candidates during her door-to-door canvassing. And when she’s persuaded one person at a door, she often gets them to talk to their friends and neighbors about the candidate.

Not only that, when she found out that one woman she talked to was involved in a line dancing group, Almeda got her to chat with her fellow dancers. Did I mention that Ms. Peaches the Voting Lady is a force to be reckoned with? 

And the thing is, if you are going to get someone you don’t know to talk to her line dancing friends about politics, you know it’s gotta be a soft sell. And that’s what Almeda Dent is about. She goes for the heart.

She explained it to me simply: “Look, most folks don’t vote against their interests. The Democratic platform is in their interest. It supports their need for a good economy, for jobs, for education and for health care. On the other hand, the Republican platform, none of that is in our interest. They want to get rid of aid to children. They want to end the minimum wage. They want to destroy unions. Don’t get twisted. Vote your interest.”

Leo W. Gerard also is a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Committee and chairs the labor federation’s Public Policy Committee. President Barack Obama appointed him to the President’s Advisory Committee on Trade Policy and Negotiation and the President's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee 2.0. He serves as co-chairman of the BlueGreen Alliance and on the boards of Campaign for America’s Future and the Economic Policy Institute.  He is a member of the executive committee for IndustriALL Global Labor federation and was instrumental in creating Workers Uniting, the first global union. Follow @USWBlogger

Posted In: From the USW International President

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