The amount of elections held last November in the U.S. may have been small in number, but they supplied some big wins to pro-worker candidates backed by the Teamsters.
From New Jersey and Virginia in the East to Washington out West, voters on Nov. 7 took a stand against those pushing policies that put big business ahead of the people. Instead, they sided with candidates who stood up to corporate greed and wanted a government that rewards those who toil hard each day by making sure fair wages and access to health care are ensured.
The Teamsters played a role in getting these new lawmakers elected.
In New Jersey, for example, four lost-time Teamsters performed worksite visits in support of victorious gubernatorial candidate Phil Murphy.
The Teamsters Field Action and Legislative Department also worked closely with locals in the state to organize a rally before a labor audience the weekend before the election for Murphy that Teamster General President Jim Hoffa attended.
Fred Potter, International Vice President and President of Local 469, said after eight years of anti-union Gov. Chris Christie (R), the state’s membership was ready for a change.
“They looked at Phil Murphy as an outsider who will deliver as promised to help the economy,” Potter said. “He understands that working people need a union and have rights. And he respects those rights.”
Al Rispoli, President of Joint Council 73 and Secretary-Treasurer of Local 863, said the Teamsters came out in support of Murphy in late 2016 because of his strong stance against right to work and the misclassification of drivers. “We need to get jobs back in Jersey and increase employment here,” Rispoli said. “He understood that.”
Thanks to Teamster efforts, both Potter and Rispoli were part of the new governor’s transition team. Potter served on the transportation committee, while Rispoli was a member of the labor and workforce development committee.
The impressive turnout by Teamsters at the pre-election rally gave a real indication of Murphy’s popularity among the union’s membership in New Jersey.
In all, lost timers made 150 worksite visits to recruit for the rally, persuade potential undecided voters and get out the vote. Teamsters also sent three waves of more than 30,000 mail pieces and did three robocalls supporting Murphy.
In Virginia, four local unions with a significant number of members in the state supplied lost-time workers beginning in early October. They performed 87 worksite visits in the Norfolk, Richmond and Northern Virginia areas, where they were able to register members to vote, persuade undecided members and get out the vote for both statewide and down-ticket races.
Mike Krenik, political coordinator for Joint Council 83 and a Vice President of Local 101, said the key to the Teamsters’ success was getting out and being seen. “It was a good ground game,” he said. “We spent a lot of time getting the word out with our members and with fliers. People said they were getting sick of seeing us. It’s a good ground game that wins elections.”
The Teamsters sent three waves of more than 6,300 mail pieces to support victorious gubernatorial candidate Ralph Northam, lieutenant governor candidate Justin Fairfax and Attorney General Mark Herring.
The union also did three robocalls supporting the top of the ticket as well as a round of paid get-out-the-vote calls in the days leading up to Election Day.
And in Washington state, not only did the Teamsters help elect Manka Dhingra in a crucial state Senate race to flip the chamber from Republican to Democrat, but nine rank-and-file Teamsters were also elected to local office across the state.
In an effort to combat anti-working-family policy initiatives coming from hostile legislators and rightwing groups like Washington’s Freedom Foundation, Teamster locals in the state banded together to develop training programs and campaign infrastructure to help their members win.
During the 2017 election cycle, Teamster leaders, staff and members contributed their time, financial resources and made hundreds of calls and visits to other union households at the doors to help get Teamster candidates over the finish line.
Newly elected Teamster candidates included:
• Anne Backstrom, Silver Lake Water and Sewer District;
• Kelly Frazier, Mason Fire Protection District 11 Commissioner;
• Michelle Gehring, Orting City Council;
• Leonard Kelley, Mayor of Stanwood;
• Dana Ralph, Mayor of Kent;
• John Resha, Lake Forest Park City Council;
• Pedro Olguin, Burien City Council;
• Stephanie Shook, Edgewood City Council; and
• Shanna Styron Sherrell, Mayor of Milton.
Making change happen means getting involved in the process and supporting candidates who back policies that help working families. November’s results show what can happen when workers shows up at the polls. That’s a model they need to follow every year.