By DAVID A. COOK
I’ll warn you now: this won’t be the last column I write about politics in 2020. This is an election year after all, and union workers have plenty at stake when they cast their ballots in November.
Don’t worry, there won’t be any commentary on the Republican National Convention or the Democratic National Convention from the last few weeks. I’ll leave the commentary about television programs like that to the talking heads on cable news.
As we prepare for what is shaping up to be a critical election, I have thought a lot about the issues that really matter to my partners of Local 655.
Now let’s be clear: I’m writing this column as your Local 655 president, not as Dave Cook, a regular voter. The men and women of this local elect me to lead them, and with thousands of partners and their families looking to this organization to safeguard their pay and benefits, I don’t have the luxury of speaking from my personal perspective on the political landscape of today.
As president though, I have an obligation to talk about certain issues that impact our local’s family in critical ways. In short, this organization is obligated to take a position on certain issues while avoiding others by a wide berth.
That’s why you might see UFCW Local 655 support increasing the minimum wage, reject the phony “right-to-work (for less)” and call for mandatory mask orders in grocery stores. These are issues that directly impact our partners on the job, and we have a responsibility to stand up for them.
You won’t see this union weighing in on Second Amendment issues or taking a position on abortion. That’s not because some of our partners don’t have strong feelings on those issues; they do. It’s because those issues simply don’t fall into our orbit as an organization dedicated to lifting up hard-working men and women.
POLITICAL ENDORSEMENTS ARE BI-PARTISAN
In the coming days and weeks, you’re going to see this organization and other unions endorsing various candidates for office or talking about issues on the ballot. Some of our partners will almost certainly disagree with some of our endorsements. I’ve been in this position long enough to know precisely what will happen. Some of our partners will call us hacks for one political party and say we are wasting their dues on politics.
Both of those accusations are false.
First, this organization is bi-partisan. Not only do we want to be, but we have to be! Our partners have a wide range of political ideologies and we never want to intentionally alienate anyone.
Second, and perhaps even more important though is this: we will support candidates from either party if they are on the right side of worker’s issues, as we have always done.
Candidates that fight against “right-to-work (for less)” and support raising the minimum wage will have our support no matter what party they belong to. Candidates that oppose dismantling public-sector unions or slashing prevailing wage will have our endorsement regardless of whether they are a Democrat or a Republican.
Too much of our politics has become a fandom for individuals and their base. Too often, our conversations with people we disagree with cease to be a discussion of the issues and instead become shouting matches about Donald Trump or Joe Biden.
ENDORSE CANDIDATES WHO FIGHT FOR WORKING MEN AND WOMEN
These shouting matches obscure the simple facts: both men have stated positions on a lot of issues, and some of those issues directly impact union and non-union workers’.
The candidate with the best position on issues should have the support of union workers. Set aside the personality conflicts; the endless cable news commentary; the internet outrage; and ask yourself “which candidate is on the right side of the issues?” That is my job as your Union president.
As of today, the answer is simple. Donald Trump supports a national “right-to-work (for less)” law, and his National Labor Relations Board has repeatedly taken steps to gut union workers’ power on the job. He does not support raising the minimum wage, and he has no coherent plan to protect the benefits like healthcare and retirement that workers rely upon.
That’s not a judgment about Donald Trump’s character or a statement about his personality: it’s a simple fact of where he stands on our critical worker issues.
Draw whatever conclusions about him that you like, but when union men and women cast ballots this November, I hope they honestly consider where candidates stand on the issues that matter. If non-worker issues are more important to you and those are the issues you vote on, that is your right and I respect that right. But if that is the case please understand that you are voting against your interests on the job for better pay, better benefits, and safer working conditions!