Sen. Tina Smith has represented Minnesotans on Capitol Hill for a little less than three years, but she has already forged a reputation as a strong advocate for working families who puts their issues first.
Smith, who is seeking re-election in November, told Minnesota Teamsters during a virtual town hall meeting last night that she is proud to have stood with the union since day one as a U.S. Senator. But she also noted her close ties to the union goes back to her time as the state’s lieutenant governor, when she joined with the Teamsters to call out the practice of wage theft. Since then, she has been a top voice in the Senate for pension reform.
“This country needs to work for working people,” she said. “The time is now to make the headway we need to win.”
Teamsters leaders agreed there is an urgency to succeed at the ballot box. “This is the most important election we’ve ever had. Everyone has to go to the polls,” Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa said. “Tina Smith is doing a great job for our union and a great job for our country.”
Larry Yoswa, President of Teamsters Joint Council 32, added, “This one by far is going to go down in the record books – it’s going to make it or break it.”
Despite the serious tone of the event, Smith said she was optimistic about the work the Senate could do. She is confident that a Democratic-led Senate combined along with a Biden-Harris administration, would pass a legislative fix for multiemployer pension once and for all.
“The only path forward is to put a Senate majority in office,” said Smith, a co-sponsor of the Butch Lewis Act. “Elections are a means to an end, so we can make real progress for working families.”
Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who appeared with Smith on the virtual town hall, said Minnesota workers couldn’t ask for a finer champion than her in the Senate.
“Tina Smith understands what is at stake for people’s retirement,” he said. While union members can often feel invisible on these issues, “to Tina they’re not,” Brown stated.
Smith fielded questions from Teamsters across Minnesota, including Amy Perusse, a corrections officer and member of Local 320. In response to concerns about the treatment of workers during the pandemic, Smith pledged to stand up for essential workers who have continued to work each day while many other have the luxury of staying home. “Too often, essential workers are like sacrificial lambs,” she said. “It is inexcusable that people are going to work in places that aren’t safe.”