Edwardsville’s Erik Jones brings record of fighting for working people to his run for Congress

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Erik Jones speaks to the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor about the need to fight for workers’ right. Behind him (to the left) is Federation President B. Dean Webb (Machinists Lodge 660) and (to the right) Secretary Cathi Gitchoff (AFSCME Local 799). – Labor Tribune photo

By CARL GREEN

Illinois Correspondent

Edwardsville, IL – Erik Jones went to Washington as a Congressional investigative attorney and dealt with problems such as online rip-offs and hazardous relief trailers.

Then he came back to Illinois and tackled more problems, such as bank fees on low-wage workers just trying to get their money.

Now he’s looking to head back to Congress as a member representing Illinois 13th Congressional District.

Jones grew up in a union household in Vandalia, IL, and now lives in Edwardsville, where he has been working as a lawyer. He and his wife, Karissa, both graduated from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2001, and they have sons ages two and five.

Jones is the only southern Illinois resident among five current candidates for the Democratic nomination to run against incumbent Rodney Davis (R-Taylorville).

GERRYMANDERED DISTRICT

The district is a travesty of gerrymandering that runs in fits and starts in several directions through parts of southern and central Illinois, taking in some mid-size cities, a lot of farm area and then making a dramatic dip south to include part of the Metro-East. It is considered either a swing district or moderately Republican.

Davis barely won the seat in 2012 and has been more easily re-elected twice since then, and he now faces no competition in the Republican primary. The other Democrats are from central Illinois towns including Springfield, Decatur, Bloomington and Champaign.

STRONG SUPPORTER OF WORKERS’ RIGHTS

Jones met recently with the Greater Madison County Federation of Labor and the Southwestern Illinois Building & Construction Trades Council.

“I’m a strong supporter of workers’ rights and the Labor Movement,” he told the Federation. “I believe unions are incredibly important and critical to ensuring we have a fair economy moving forward, so I’m a strong supporter of Davis-Bacon.”

During a recent visit to SIUE as guest speaker, he explained so-called “right-to-work” to a class of journalism students.

“I am adamantly opposed to the ‘right-to-work’ legislation that’s being passed and pushed across the country. I don’t even like saying ‘right-to-work’ because I think it’s such a misnomer,” he said. “As a member of Congress, I would be adamantly opposed to any effort to put that in at the federal level.”

Jones said the Labor Movement should get more credit for the many improvements it has brought to the lives of working Americans.

“If you look at the history of our country, all these things that we take for granted – like weekends and the work week – are due to the Labor Movement,” he said.

“I think it’s incredibly important that we remember that, and that we start trying to get on the offensive again in this country, and get workers’ rights moving back in the right direction. I think we’ve been on defense too long.”

Republicans, including Davis, have proven to be unreliable supporters and frequently outright opponents of unions, Jones said.

“I know we have some members on the Republican side who have been with unions on some issues,” he said. “They’re always with us – 20 percent or 30 percent of the time. I want get to Congress so I can be there 100 percent of the time.”

ON THE ISSUES

Addressing what he sees as key issues, Jones said:

  • Health care – “I believe health care is a human right. I disagree with what the Republicans have been pushing in Congress this year, where they’re trying to dismantle the programs that we have to provide insurance to people. I’m 100 percent opposed to that. I believe everyone in this country should have coverage. It’s as simple as that.”
  • Student loans – “I don’t believe that, in order to get an education in this country, we should force young people to go into ridiculous amounts of debt to do it.”

Jones used student loans to attend law school at the University of Michigan. He said young adults saddled with student debt often can’t buy a house or invest in a new business.

“It’s going to catch up with us as a country if the price of admission to adulthood is $100,000 in debt,” he said.

  • Republican tax plan – “[It’s] portrayed as tax cuts for the middle class, but if you take a closer look at what’s going on…. [It’s] huge tax cuts for the wealthy.”

 

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