Pro-worker lawmakers who voted to invest in American infrastructure and manufacturing have compiled a record to run on like never before in modern times: hundreds of thousands of new jobs created already and millions more on the way — as long as voters stay the course on Election Day.
That’s the message that IBEW activists in all 50 states are driving home as the clock ticks down to the close of polls Tuesday, bringing outcomes that will affect workers for better or worse at all levels of government.
With every door knock, phone call, text, postcard, flier, yard sign, and rallying cry, members are stressing the collective power that union brothers and sisters have at the ballot box — the only poll that counts.
“The numbers are on our side, no matter how much the media would have you believe otherwise,” International President Lonnie R. Stephenson said. “If we turn out the vote for the incumbents and candidates who have our backs, we win. We stay home, we lose.”
“We can keep building on two years of progress — more good, union jobs, more justice for workers, more economic security,” he said. “Or we can hand power over to people who intend to derail everything we’ve gained and slash Social Security and Medicare while they’re at it.”
Family-wage jobs, a secure retirement and the peace of mind they bring were at the heart of remarks that U.S. Senate candidate Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio delivered on a campaign stop at an IBEW hall in Dayton last week.
“The gist of his message was workers first,” Local 82 Business Manager Greg Gust said. “He talked about being able to retire comfortably, live comfortably, to have enough money in your pocket to take care of your families and your bills and expenses and provide a future for your children and grandchildren.”
Ryan’s campaign bus was escorted to Dayton and other campaign stops over the past week by members of the Toledo Local 8 motorcycle club and fellow unionists.
“We’re rallying as many bikers from the IBEW and other building trades from now until Tuesday,” said Bill Box, assistant business manager. “We’re 100% with Tim Ryan.”
Battles for governors’ offices, statehouses and local races are also on the ballot in most states, all with high stakes for workers.
At a labor hall rally featuring Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers and other state candidates last week, one IBEW leader put it this way:
“Those of you who know me are probably sick and tired of me telling you that every election is the most important of your lifetimes, but this one honestly is,” said Jim Meyer, assistant business manager of Milwaukee Local 2150, underscoring that it “scares the hell out of me” to hear the rhetoric of anti-worker candidates like Evers’ opponent.
“That’s why it’s vital that we elect folks who will stand up for workers’ rights, to elect the right folks to build and grow our movement,” Meyer said.
Volunteers from every corner of the IBEW have lined up to help the labor movement fight for pro-worker candidates and ballot initiatives across the U.S.
Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy piled one superlative on top of another as he talked about IBEW members’ work to unseat the state’s virulently anti-worker governor and elect Beto O’Rourke, along with a slate of labor-endorsed U.S. House candidates.
“The IBEW is kicking ass,” Levy said. “The really are the backbone of our work here. The level of commitment, the quality of the human beings doing the work, the expertise in organizing. I literally do not know what we would have done without the brothers and sisters of the IBEW.”
No matter what happens Tuesday, “their contribution has been amazing,” he said. “It may or may not be enough to win, but it’s certainly enough to be proud of.”
In California, IBEW members have been turning out in force for labor walks every weekend, campaigning for pro-union candidates and Proposition 30, a clean-energy ballot measure to generate up to $4 billion per year in revenue for electric vehicles and EV infrastructure through a small tax on people earning more than $2 million per year.
“Proposition 30 runs straight at our priorities – stopping climate change and creating IBEW jobs,” Los Angeles Local 11 Political Director Antonio Sanchez said.
A get-out-the-vote training session at Vacaville Local 1245 in northern California drew 70 member-activists in early October.
“If we didn’t have a hand in politics, we’d be crushed,” organizer and Assistant Business Manager Rene Cruz Martinez told the group. “Corporations spend millions of dollars on politicians. What we have are boots on the ground. We have you, your family and your friends to help us elect politicians and win legislation that protects working families.”
Candidates making their pitch at IBEW and other union halls are sensitive to the fact that inflation is very much on workers’ minds. But they lay the blame where it belongs: on soaring corporate profits, such as nearly $21 billion in profit for Shell PLC in the past six months, a windfall that is being used to buy back stock rather than reduce gas prices.
Using economists’ data, California Rep. Katie Porter displayed a chart at a recent congressional hearing illustrating that corporate price gouging is driving the lion’s share of inflation, well exceeding the costs of labor and materials.
Pro-worker candidates point to the Inflation Reduction Act that was passed by Democrats in the House and Senate in August without a single Republican vote. Its myriad benefits include reduced energy bills, along with billions of dollars in job-creating clean-energy investments.
“When it actually came time to do something about inflation around the kitchen table, every one of them said no — House and the Senate,” President Joe Biden said in a speech highlighting the new law.
Then he stressed what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy promised if his party wins control.
“He said the first thing they’re going to do is repeal the Inflation Reduction Act. All those things I mentioned we’re going to do, they [will] get rid of them all.”
Stephenson praised the IBEW members, local officers and staff nationwide who are working to exhaustion to turn out the union vote and keep progress for workers alive.
“We’ve got one more day to make our voices heard,” he said. “Let’s make it count.”