Teamster political coordinators from across the country are gathering virtually this week to learn about the legislative and political priorities of the union in this important election year and how they can use their power to get results that help working people even in this coronavirus era.
Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, more than 150 representatives from locals and Joint Councils in the U.S. are participating in the meeting and getting important information on how to motivate members to lobby their lawmakers on important policy and get out and vote for candidates in November that will stand up and support measures that help hardworking Americans.
That comes as the Teamsters have been active in getting people out to the polls in June primary states like Colorado, Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania.
“We are out there. We are making sure we are working,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa told attendees. “We are keeping in contact. And with everyone working together, we can get this done.”
Teamsters heard from pro-worker lawmakers during the event who pledged their support to the union’s priorities and urged them on to take an active role both in pressing for legislation and getting people elected.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said they need to stay focused on what is important. “A lot is going to happen in the next four, five months. It is not just about one guy, it is about the soul of our nation,” he said. “We need to have a thriving economy for all families. We need to rethink our infrastructure where I can’t find a child without access to broadband.”
Rep. Haley Stevens (D-Mich.), who has been a strong supporter of pension reform that protects the retirement of workers and retirees, said the Teamsters have proven time and again that they can formulate change. Now it time to do so again, she said.
“We have been in choppy waters because of the pandemic, but also before the pandemic,” Stevens said. “Teamsters always rise. You rise when you are steady, and for sure you rise when times are tough.”
Looking forward, the Teamsters are focused on training its members to drive turnout. That begins by making sure people show up to vote, a task made more difficult by the continuing coronavirus crisis. That’s why the Teamsters want to build on primary election efforts to encourage vote by mail in an effort to empower the voice of workers at the ballot box.
During a Wednesday workshop on voting rules, Teamster staff told political coordinators about changes to several state voting rules making it easier to vote by mail or absentee vote. California and Illinois, for example, are mailing ballots to all voters for the November election, while other states like Virginia, North Carolina and New Hampshire will have no-excuse absentee ballots this November.
“Election offices and the campaigns we work with are operating under unprecedented challenges,” said Tyler Longpine, the Teamsters Political Director. “Many feel they are on a runaway train running towards Election Day. That’s why voting early, this year more than ever, is a small act of public service so we can help administrative staff lengthen the election window.”
The effort to increase voter turnout could end up getting more pro-worker candidates elected, people like Nicole Galloway, the current Missouri state auditor who is running for governor. Galloway pledged to Teamsters that she would hold the line against so-called right to work in the state and who advocate for government that respects the will of the people.
“We can win this race,” she said. “I’m offering a new way forward in Missouri. You will have a seat at my table in the governor’s office.”