Florida Teamsters were among the hundreds of those in the Sunshine State who attended the 2020 Democratic Party primary debates in Miami this week. And although they admitted the atmosphere was electric, these attendees said both forums ran light on details about what candidates would do to fight for workers.
Issues such as pension reform and collective bargaining were woefully missing from either debate. Though that may not be surprising given this was the first go-around for the 20 candidates who made the debate stage, Teamster members agreed that is something that needs to be improved upon if these presidential contenders want to make inroads with hardworking Americans in the months ahead.
“The conversation started off talking about workers’ rights, but it kind of ended there,” said Jim Shurling, President of Joint Council 75 as well as Local 512, who saw Thursday’s debate. “We need to hear about collective bargaining and pension reform before we can make a decision.”
“The candidates touched on how the economy has worked for the stock market and the ultra-rich, but not the workers,” added Roly Piña, Secretary-Treasurer of Local 769, who also attended Thursday night. “They didn’t talk about organized labor.”
Josh Zivalich, Local 769’s President who attended Wednesday night, agreed. “I wish the retirement security issue had come up,” he said. “Maybe there is a way for us to get that question framed in future debates.”
Indeed, several of the Teamsters who attended the Miami forums said they would like to see a future debate focused solely on worker and labor issues. That way, working Americans will be sure to get insightful answers on important issues that will help keep a roof over their heads and food on the table.
Woody Wilson, Local 769’s Vice President, said there is a need to focus on worker issues, which he said can help bring the country back together. And it starts with “jobs, jobs, jobs.”
“We need something wage related for the working family,” Wilson, who attended Thursday night, said. “If you want to build it right, it has to be a union job. We really, really need to talk about labor boldly.”
He described these debates as “more candidate topic driven, instead of union, worker, family, pension and health care driven.”
Going forward, contenders would be wise to follow the words of Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) last night. “America doesn’t want a food fight; it wants to know how we are going to put food on their table.”