We find ourselves at a crossroad all across North America. We are still dealing with the effects of the Coivd-19 pandemic, and those effects are both public health and economic effects that have given us the largest unemployment rate since the Great Depression. We are also coming to grips with the long-simmering racial, social and ethnic injustice that was reignited by several incidents culminating with the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd and others.
In the United States, this is a decision year. We will have the President, all the seats in the House of Representatives, and many Senate, Gubernatorial and state legislature seats up for election. The choices we make will have long-lasting effects on how we deal with Covid-19, how we deal with injustice and hatred, and how strong our Union can be in the future, which has a direct impact on how many hours you will have an opportunity to work, what the future of health insurance looks like, how strong we are to gain wage increases, and the future of pensions.
In 2016, I wrote to you to urge you not to vote against your best interests. 2018 brought on the mid-term elections where we were essential in securing seven (7) gubernatorial victories, held our ground in the Senate with only one current net loss, had a net gain of twenty-eight (28) U.S. House seats, captured six (6) state chambers and turned over many supermajorities and trifecta control changing the political landscape of many states, in favor of unions.
Yes, a “Blue Wave” benefits Unions and much of the results of the last two very important elections have begun to show. We have not yet seen all of the results because the effects of anti-worker judges appointed to the Bench, or the National Labor Relations Board decisions, or anti-worker executive orders, etcetera, may take years to show.
Let me name a few: The Trump Secretary of Labor, Eugene Scalia, is a union-busting attorney charged with protecting workers’ rights. What an irony! If the name sounds familiar, that’s because he’s a second-generation anti-union, anti-worker official. He is the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. We see that enforcement of prevailing wage laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act are way down, and the number of people charged with enforcement is also down. OSHA has had its funding cut and enforcement cut back. As of this writing, OSHA has refused to issue a Federal standard for the impact of Covid-19 in the workplace.
The Trump National Labor Relations Board has reversed all the Obama era cases that enhanced workers’ rights, and many that were in place prior to the Obama administration. However, let me give you an example that hits closer to home; and that is the situation in West Virginia and our own District Council 53. Our economy began to improve under President Obama and, up until the Covid crisis, was booming for the last five to seven years. Yet, as politics changed in West Virginia and Republicans occupied the seats of Government within the state, changes were made.
Prevailing wage in the state was abolished and West Virginia also became a right-to-work state. You may say “so what?” However, the net result was that in five years, we lost 20% of our members in West Virginia and 20% of our man hours. This all happened during a construction boom. The change in these two laws had a very negative and profound effect on our market share and our ability to negotiate better wages and benefits. We went from getting 85% of all school painting, drywall and glazing projects to the opposite of getting 15% of those projects being won by IUPAT union contractors.
Don’t think it can’t happen where you live and work! A few subtle changes and we are weaker and poorer. Again, don’t vote against your own best interests. Your livelihood, and your families’ futures are at stake.
Maybe other issues are important to you. I personally abhor abortion, and many people vote on the basis of that issue. I personally support peoples’ right to own guns, and many people vote on the basis of that issue. Well, since the mid ‘70s, whether a Republican or Democrat occupied the White House, or regardless of who held the majority in Congress or on the Supreme Court, nothing has changed on these two issues. The Democrats have not taken your guns, and the Republicans have not overturned Row v. Wade or outlawed abortion. So, vote your pocketbook. Politicians on both sides use these issues as leverage and change nothing.
I am not suggesting that electing democrats will give us everything we want for workers to gain a fairer slice of the economic pie. We will, as always, have to fight and make our voices heard, just as we are doing now in the fight against injustice and bigotry, which is very much a workers’ rights issue. However, given another four years, Trump and his enablers in the Congress and in the Courts will further divide our country along racial and ethnic lines, further erode workers’ rights and protections, all the while giving all the economic gains to the very wealthiest among us.
I have never voted strictly on the basis of Party. I have always evaluated the candidates. This time, however, because of how extreme Trump has led the Republican Party, I urge you to vote straight Democrat and send a message that we won’t continue to be lied to and taken advantage of. Speak to all of your friends and family. Vote in your economic interest. Get everyone you can to register to vote, and then vote!
In 1872, Senator Carl Schurz of Missouri said on the floor of the Senate: “My country right or wrong; if right to be kept right; if wrong to be set right.”
The United States and Canada have always striven to achieve high ideals. Yet, on the issue of equal and fair treatment of racial minorities, immigrants, the poor, or workers, we have fallen woefully short and struggled mightily. This year, in the midst of so many crises and an election, we have a chance to finally set it right. Let’s continue to work for justice, equality, and fairness – not just for workers but for everyone. Speak your mind, vote, be active!
I pray that we all turn back to God and seek Him and His kingdom so that he may heal our land of disease, hatred, and injustice.
God bless you all.