By Teamsters General President Jim Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, Nov. 3, 2021
Election Day is over – at least for 2021. But if workers and their allies want to continue down the road of progress while protecting the gains they’ve earned at the federal and state level this year, it is not too early to start thinking about the 2022 election. In fact, it is essential.
Here in Michigan, that means standing up for current Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, Lt. Gov. Garin Gilchrist and Attorney General Dana Nessel, who are proven friends of workers. But it also means giving strong support to members of Congress and state legislatures across the country who have shown they are advocates for the Teamsters, workers and other pro-worker organizations.
For those of you who tend to take non-presidential election years off, this is no time to do so. Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. and Lansing play a pivotal role in shaping policy and giving support to chief executives at the national and state levels. Without legislative backing, all the good intentions of President Biden and Gov. Whitmer become just words. They, and the hardworking Americans who will benefit from these measures, need votes to make them a reality.
Much has already been accomplished. Earlier this year, Congress boosted faltering multiemployer pension plans, saving the nest eggs of some 1 million hardworking Americans that would have faced substantial cuts if legislation passed by Congress in March hadn’t been approved. Now, these people have economic certainty for their golden years.
That same legislation, the American Rescue Plan, also doled out dollars to support the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s enforcement in high-risk sectors during the coronavirus pandemic; provided states and localities with funds to avoid mass layoffs and furloughs that would have worsened the recession; and provided funding for transit agencies, airports, airlines and Amtrak.
So what’s at stake? The ability to get great bills passed like the ones currently before Congress that invest in American infrastructure to bring this state and nation more fully into the 21st century. Better roads, rails, bridges, water systems and power grids are paramount for not only job creation, but a better way of life. The accompanying Build Back Better Act grants tax relief to middle class families, more affordable child care and increased worker training opportunities for those who need it.
And there is so much more to do. Passage of the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would strengthen the 86-year-old National Labor Relations Act so workers seeking to organize a union and negotiate higher wages and better benefits will be protected. Workers deserve a safe workplace, the ability to stand together and negotiate better working conditions, and to live a middle-class lifestyle.
Surveys show that workers want unions. However, there is a huge gap between the share of workers with union representation and the share of workers that would like to have a union and a voice on the job. So-called right to work is a big reason for that, but the PRO Act would override such state laws here in Michigan and elsewhere that have kept the wages of working Americans down.
Workers can continue to shape policy that will help the vast majority of families in this country. But it requires getting the word out to friends and family about what is at stake. Showing up and electing pro-worker people to office is how hardworking Americans can flourish in the years to come.