After midterms, politicians must act


Last week we endured the 2022 midterms. If you’re anything like me, you probably welcomed an end to the ceaseless campaign ads on our televisions and the piles of mail pieces in your mailbox. Now, as the smoke is beginning to clear and the final races are counted or very nearly counted the picture for the next two years is becoming clear.

Unlike in first-term midterms of recent memory, President Joe Biden and congressional Democrats avoided a major shellacking at the polls. Usually, the party of the sitting president takes a beating during that president’s first midterm. Instead, Democrats may end up picking up a senate seat. As of this writing, the House remains uncalled. However, the fact that Democrats losing the House is only somewhat likely and not absolutely certain speaks to just how little the election reflected many expectations.

There are numerous possible explanations for why things turned out this way, and those reasons will be endlessly explored by pundits and columnists in the weeks to come.

Here’s something we know for certain: union volunteers played a pivotal role in this election.

Catherine Cortez Masto, incumbent Democratic Senator in Nevada, has narrowly won her race. In an election with nearly one million votes cast, Cortez Masto has won her race by 6,000 votes. This was considered one of the most likely pickups for Republicans in the senate, and Democrats held on at the last minute.

What does this have to do with Labor?

Well, Labor unions in Nevada are the center of a massive and highly successful election machine that helped Cortez Masto cross the finish line. The Culinary Worker’s Union in Las Vegas knocked on more than one million doors for Cortez Masto during this election. They reported having direct conversations with more than 175,000 workers. They spoke with more than half of every Black and Hispanic voter in Reno and Las Vegas, and averaged knocking on 20,000 doors every single day since March.

That is a grassroots operation almost unheard of in today’s world. That is an operation that is about more than helping a specific politician win a specific election — it is a massive effort to make sure regular working Nevadans can speak with other Nevadans about the issues that matter to them both. All the slick television ads in the world simply cannot compare to the impact of regular voters engaging in meaningful conversations about kitchen table issues.

This is one of the things Organized Labor can continue to do so well. When we have a clear mission to lift up working people and the commitment to see it through, Organized Labor can bring together hard-working men and women of all backgrounds to fight for a common goal. We can engage the public in real-world conversations. We don’t spout bumper-sticker slogans and we don’t read from cue cards.

The men and women that make up Organized Labor – not leaders like myself — can have more impact than almost anyone else on the course of an election. Who is more likely to get your attention, a polished politician on a debate stage, or a chat with your neighbor?

There are other races around the country where Organized Labor stepped up —not just by cutting a check, but by putting boots on the ground and speaking directly to the communities that determine elections.

We don’t know what will happen in the House or how it will affect the ability of Congress to get things done, but a lot of politicians owe their offices to the hard work of union men and women.

They need to remember that when it’s time to govern, working people are the ones that put them in office. We need more than lip service. Working-class men and women have issues that we care about:

  • We need to be able to afford prescriptions and doctor’s appointments.
  • We need to know that one good job is enough to afford to live in the richest country on Earth. We have children to raise and bills to pay.
  • We need good wages and protection from discrimination on the job.
  • We need communities that are safe with schools that can give the best education to our families.
  • We need to know that one day we can retire with dignity, and that our hard work will pay off.

There was a lot of noise in this election about issues that the average voter simply does not care about and I won’t spend the ink here diving into them.

Most voters want the same thing, and that’s the chance to succeed and raise their family in America so long as they work hard. That’s it.

People want a fair shot at the American dream in the form of economic justice. These are the same people who turned out to vote last week, and they elected leaders who made promises.

Time to live up to those promises. Time to bring fairness back to our economic system, to empower working families, and to make the American dream a reality.

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