By HENRY GARRIDO
The midterm elections have shown that unions are a vital electoral force in our country and the United States is undergoing a political realignment that we hope will significantly improve the lives of working people.
The recapturing of the U.S. House of Representatives by Democrats creates an important check on the excesses of the Trump administration. This allows us to push back against GOP lawmakers’ plan to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security; adopt trade agreements harmful to workers; dismantle Obamacare; repeal regulations, including worker protections, and pass more tax cuts to benefit corporations and the 1 percent.
As we look ahead to President Trump’s campaign for a second term in 2020, we can expect a rocky road ahead. Many feel we face political warfare rather than compromise and constructive dialog over public policy.
While it appears the political division in our nation’s capital will worsen, the results of the midterm elections are a sign of hope for working people.
The elections are an important step toward fulfilling our agenda of making our society more just and equitable with good jobs and guarantees of a secure retirement for working people.
We are thrilled that labor played a key role in flipping state chambers and governorships throughout the United States. AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka described the labor movement’s get-out-the-vote effort as its greatest mobilization in half a century.
Union activists knocked on 25 million doors, distributed 5 million flyers, sent 260,00 text messages, and visited 4,650 worksites. Unions were responsible for 69 million impressions on social media. And about 750 union members were elected to political office.
Massive changes from coast-to-coast
From New York to California, we worked with a rainbow coalition of progressive whites, women, blacks, Latinos, LGBTQ+, community organizations and faith groups to support pro-worker candidates and public policy. The result?
● More than 100 women were elected to serve in the U.S. Congress — the largest number ever.
● Organized labor helped boot governors Scott Walker of Wisconsin and Bruce Rauner of Illinois from office. They were favorites of a shadowy far right network carrying out attacks on unions and government services around the country.
● Voters supported initiatives to raise the minimum wage, expand Medicaid, protect voting rights and guarantee paid sick leave. Floridians voted to restore the voting rights of 1.5 million felons, a group that includes 20 percent of the state’s African-American residents.
● Democrats won seven legislative chambers, flipped seven governorships and increased their control of all three branches of state governments from seven to 13. In New York, DC 37 members and retirees helped Democrats gain control of the state Senate. This builds on the party’s control of the governor’s office and the state Assembly.
We expect our coalition to become more powerful as people reject the politics of hate and fear. We are proud to be a part of this growing political force. The midterm elections encourage us to keep up the fight for a more inclusive and pro-worker society.
The DC 37 Blog is an official online publication of District Council 37, AFSCME, which represents 125,000 public service workers in New York City and the surrounding area. This story originally appeared in the November-December issue of Public Employee Press.