Teamsters have a chance on Election Day to elect lawmakers who will put the concerns of working families ahead of the concerns of big business. But it won’t be easy.
Midterm elections usually have poor turnout, so it is essential that members not only vote, but get their friends, family and co-workers to vote.
“Working people win when they turn out to vote,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “It doesn’t matter whether the race is to elect people to Congress, the Statehouse or City Hall. We need elected officials across the board who will enact policies that support workers and their families.”
The Teamsters have identified 16 “Tier 1” states for the 2018 elections: Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and West Virginia.
But even within that list, some states are being focused on more than others due to key races. Within those Tier 1 states, the Teamsters have been running an aggressive get-out-the-vote program, with Teamsters talking to their fellow union members at worksites and making calls. The union will be enlisting hundreds of member volunteers to work the program beginning in September.
One of the most important races Teamsters are involved in is the gubernatorial contest in Michigan. The Teamsters Union has endorsed Gretchen Whitmer for Michigan governor.
She is campaigning in support of workers and retirees, on a pledge to create good-paying jobs, fix critical infrastructure and repeal the retirement tax.
Hoffa recently led a get-out-the-vote rally with Joint Council 43 President Greg Nowak, Teamsters and community members, along with a number of union and political leaders, in support of Whitmer.
“We are excited about Gretchen Whitmer because she is a leader. She has a proven record of fighting for workers and retirees,” Hoffa said. “She will prioritize creating good jobs, fixing our infrastructure and leading our state forward.”
“Gretchen Whitmer understands that the labor movement built the middle class,” Nowak said. “There’s a lot of work to be done, but she is up to the task and will make a difference for Michiganders. We applaud her for her commitment to repealing the state retirement tax which has been a huge burden on retirees.”
Whitmer addressed the Teamsters, labor community and Flint community at the rally, committing to work hard for them.
“Michiganders are ready for a governor who knows how to get things done for hardworking Michiganders,” Whitmer said. “That means fixing our roads, making sure every Michigander has a path to a high wage job, and repealing the Snyder retirement tax. Michigan workers can compete with anyone in the world as long as there’s a level playing field. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves on day one and get to work solving problems.”
Many candidates up for election were propelled to victory in their primaries by the Teamsters Union.
Joint Council 25-endorsed candidates emerged as winners in 12 congressional primaries and the gubernatorial primary in Illinois, ensuring that the concerns of workers will be heard as focus shifts to the general election this November.
At the top of the ballot is J.B. Pritzker, who defeated two other Democrats to become the party’s gubernatorial nominee. The candidate has vowed to stand up for unions and working people, as well as for improving wages and health care.
Rita Bomher, a business agent with Local 777, got a chance to meet Pritzker while phone banking for him recently at his Rockford campaign office.
“I was just making my calls, oblivious to everyone,” she said. “All of the sudden, someone touched me on the arm, and it was him. When I stood up, he saw my Teamster shirt, and he said, ‘Oh wow!’”
But meeting the candidate was just a small part of her day. Bomher estimates that she called more than 400 people the day before the election trying to convince them to vote for Pritzker. In one case, a man she spoke to said he would change his vote if she brought him a yard sign. So she drove 47 miles one way to do so.
That’s the kind of dedication that will be needed to be successful this November.
Sen. Sherrod Brown
Protecting pensions is an important reason to pay attention to union-endorsed candidates, and the Teamsters Union has had no greater ally in the fight to protect pensions than Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), who is up for reelection.
“Sen. Brown has been leading the charge on this issue since day one,” Hoffa said. “He knows what’s at stake and understands that no worker should be denied what they worked so hard their entire career to earn – the ability to retire with dignity.”
“People of both political parties talk about the American dream—about the idea that if you work hard, you can earn your way to a better life,” Brown said. “These Americans worked hard. They earned a living and they earned a secure retirement. We should all be able to come together to affirm the principle that hard work should pay off. And I believe we will.”
Sen. Brown, who co-chairs the Joint Select Committee on Solvency of Multiemployer Pension Plans, also introduced the Butch Lewis Act of 2017 (H.R.4444/S.2147) last November. The legislation is a Teamster-supported bill that you can read more about on page 8.
“It will be up to Congress to step in, or allow the entire multiemployer pension system to fail, eviscerating the retirement of 10.1 million American workers and retirees, and forcing American businesses to file bankruptcy, lay off workers and close their doors,” Brown said. “As dysfunctional as Washington is, I don’t see a scenario where Congress allows that type of devastation without stepping in.”
Workers deserve a better life that allows them to earn a living that supports a family. But it won’t happen without electing lawmakers who put people before the powerful.