By TIM ROWDEN
After four years of unrelenting attacks on working people and their unions, the election of President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris offers hope for achieving the long-sought transformational policy changes Labor has been fighting to achieve for America’s workers.
“Working people have elected true allies to the White House,” Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO said of the Biden-Harris victory. “They visited our union halls, they marched on our picket lines and they campaigned as unabashed friends of Labor unions.”
Biden proved that support last week by appointing 27 Labor leaders to his transition team. (See related story: Biden adds 27 union leaders to transition team.)
‘OUR DEMOCRACY WORKED’
The American people had their voices heard and their votes counted, and their will was clear and decisive, said Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“Under immense pressure, our democracy worked,” Weingarten said. “We look forward to working with an administration that will embrace the values we hold dear: justice and opportunity for all; strengthened public schools that work for all kids; economic security, starting with decent wages, good jobs and the right to a union; a belief in truth and science; and universal access to healthcare and college. We can’t wait to get started.”
Biden has promised immediate action to get the raging coronavirus under control, starting with providing the critical protections essential workers on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic have needed but failed to receive under the Trump administration.
“For the past nine months, essential workers have told their stories and made their message clear: Respect us, protect us and pay us,” said Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employees (SEIU) Local 1. “This year, janitors, security officers, residential workers and more turned out in record numbers and worked hard to elect Joe Biden as president of the United States. Working people united – across racial lines and different backgrounds – to forge a new direction for our country. Together, we are ready to continue the fight for a democracy and an economy that works for all.”
‘A WIN FOR ALL WORKING PEOPLE’
The Biden/Harris victory was “a win for all working people,” said Lonnie Stephenson, president of the 775,000-member International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
“The last four years have been some of the most challenging in recent American history,” Stephenson said. “Incomes for working families remain stagnant while Wall Street continues to set record profits. The coronavirus pandemic has hit working-class Americans the hardest, but the current administration focused on bailing out the top one percent and slashing protections for working people instead of taking action to help America’s struggling middle class.
“Joe Biden won more votes than any presidential candidate in U.S. history,” Stephenson said. “From the start of his campaign, he made it clear that his focus as president will be to rebuild America’s middle class and invest in an economy that works for everyone. America is ready to turn the page and get to work building this nation back better.”
Stephenson also thanked the IBEW members who volunteered their time to help Biden rebuild the so-called blue wall in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and get out the votes in the swing states of Arizona and Georgia.
“Thousands of IBEW members made phone calls, sent messages, and talked to their co-workers about what was at stake in this election and why Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were the right choice for those who care about their jobs, their unions, and their futures.”
A SEAT AT THE TABLE
“Joe Biden didn’t just make promises to Labor. The power professionals of the IBEW had a seat at the table in Biden’s campaign from the beginning,” Stephenson said.
“That is why his energy platform is not only aggressive about combating climate change, but is also committed to creating tens of thousands of good union jobs and building a 21st-century energy infrastructure. I know the men and women of the IBEW will continue to have a seat at the table in a Biden/Harris administration as we bring Americans from all walks of life together to build a vibrant and growing economy that rewards work, not wealth, and lifts up all working families.”
Biden’s election brings with it a new sense of optimism that America’s working families will once again have their voices heard in the Oval Office, said Richard Lanigan, president of the 125,000-member Office and Professional Employees Union (OPEIU).
“This is a historic day for working people,” Lanigan said. “Not only has our members’ work to oust an anti-worker president come to fruition, but working people now have someone in the White House who will strive to protect America’s working families, not just the wealthy and powerful, and help bring our nation back together to heal after four years of divisiveness. Though we anticipate a wave of last-ditch legal challenges from the Trump campaign, our union will move forward knowing working people’s needs and struggles will be considered as President-elect Biden begins to assemble his cabinet.
“Working people across the country, especially OPEIU members, are looking forward to fighting side-by-side as we confront the biggest issues facing our country today: the COVID crisis, the attack on workers’ rights, economic inequality, racial justice and climate change.”
BUILD BACK BETTER
“As the results of this historic election become clear, our nation is stronger – with Joe Biden as our president-elect,” said Harold Schaitberger, general president of the 320,000-member International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF).
“As president of the United States, Joe Biden will continue to be the strongest and most influential voice for hard-working Americans, including fire fighters and their families, just as he has been throughout his entire career.
IAFF has supported Biden from his early days in the U.S. Senate to his eight years as vice president and throughout his campaign.
“This union has supported Joe Biden because he supports the issues that are important to the lives and livelihoods of our members and to keeping the public and our communities safe,” Schaitberger said.
When Biden addressed the IAFF Legislative Conference in 2019, before he had announced his candidacy, the hall was filled with gold and black “Run Joe Run” signs, and IAFF was the first union to endorse his campaign.
“Our union has been proud to show our steadfast support for Joe, just as he has shown his support for working men and women throughout his political career,” Schaitberger said.
“Joe Biden will be a president on issues that give fire fighters a full voice in protecting their neighborhoods. He will be a leader for all Americans, regardless of their political affiliations, while restoring the soul the nation. He will rebuild the backbone of the middle class and restore people’s belief in equal opportunity for everyone with his core conviction that by working together we can build back better.”