OPINION: Run! Government needs working-family advocates


President, UFCW Local 655

(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is an edited version of a message Brother Cook sent to his members recently. It’s a message that all workers concerned about their future should read and consider.)

Last month, Alex Lange announced he was running for St. Louis County Council. Alex is one of our hard-working union representatives at Local 655, and he’ll make an excellent candidate. If he’s elected, he’ll serve his constituents well.

For the last two election cycles, Karen Settlemoir-Berg ran for State Representative in Jefferson County. Karen is also a hard-working union representative at Local 655. Her campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, but she worked hard and charged into a race that was never going to be easy because she thought it was the right thing to do.

They aren’t alone. Local 655 rank-and-file partners have run for local office all across the region, including city council, school boards and fire boards.

We don’t do this to toot our own horn. We don’t seek public office to stroke our egos or pat ourselves on the back. We seek office because there aren’t enough advocates for hard-working families in public office right now.

Whether it’s in our state capitol — where politicians are fighting to overturn the will of the people and destroy Clean Missouri — or here in St. Louis, where we have a serious problem with the representation in public office.

In politics, it’s important to have a deep bench.

Politicians all have to start somewhere, and not every politician ends up yelling at someone they don’t like on cable news or tweeting about bills they don’t like. Some of the best politicians that Missouri ever had are folks you might not even know.

They were state senators and representatives quietly doing the important work for their communities and they were mayors or aldermen or city council folks fixing everyday problems like filling potholes or securing more funds for the local schools.

Most of the politics that actually impacts your day-to-day life happens right in your own backyard.

All of this is why it’s important that more union members and union staffers seek public office.

There was a time when this was more common, when Organized Labor fielded an army of candidates for office and made sure the halls of power had men and women who would fight for us walking in them, instead of looking in and feeling helpless.


For a long time, we’ve allowed wealthy special interests to recruit their candidates without enough challenge from us.

This is how corporate stooges, who only care more about enhancing the profits of some billion-dollar company, end up giving tax cuts to big businesses on the backs of our services and at the cost of our pocketbooks.

This is how ordinary politicians end up sponsoring bills that lower your wages; hurt your families, take money from your pockets, and wound your community.

This happens because they are courted, crafted, fielded and funded by corporate special interests.

It’s time we pushed back.

Let’s court our own candidates that we can trust to fight for workers, union or non-union, when big business attacks. Let’s encourage our friends, our neighbors, our co-workers to seek office so that they can be the change we so desperately need.

Let’s ask ourselves, “Why not me?”


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