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labor Working People Respond to Midterm Election Results

The best antidote to the politics of hate and fear promoted by the White House and The Republican Party is activism around genuine social reform. Labor leaders recap election results below.

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Across the country, yesterday's elections showed that where candidates appealed to working people and championed policies that support us, working people will support those candidates. Working people provided winning margins in races across the country, sending a clear message that the pathway to winning elections in the United States goes through the labor movement.

Here is what the leaders of the AFL-CIO's affiliates and other national organizations said about yesterday's results.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka (UMWA):

Union members made our voices heard loud and clear last night. Working people trust our unions, and that trust was at the core of an unmatched political program. For months, street by street and person by person, we talked about the issues that matter most and the candidates who will put working families first. We have been mobilizing on a scale that I’ve never seen in my 50 years in the labor movement. In every corner of the country, working people showed up to fill the halls of power with union members and our allies. We made clear that we won’t stand for those who prioritize the demands of an elite few—whether they’re anti-labor Republicans or pro-corporate Democrats.

AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr.:

For the last two years, the administration and its allies in Congress have run roughshod over the federal workers who keep this country running, and have launched a series of unprecedented attacks on our union in the process. Now, thanks to tremendous voter turnout and enthusiasm, we can once again count on Congress to provide checks and balances on the White House.

No longer will the president and his congressional allies have free reign to politicize the civil service and reduce civil service protections or union rights. We expect the new Congress to respect the apolitical civil service and our union rights in order to promote a better tomorrow for federal workers.

We expect the 116th Congress to respect workers’ voices in the workplace, respect the collective bargaining process, and respect the important work federal employees do on behalf of the American people. And with narrow-majority Senate returning, there will be opportunities for bipartisan efforts.

We look forward to working with leaders on both sides of the aisle to protect union rights and protect federal pay and retirement. We will also work with the bipartisan majority that opposes costly and unaccountable outsourcing of federal government work.

We are extremely proud of the efforts put forth by our members this year.

AFGE activists turned out in unprecedented numbers, and spent a tremendous number of hours knocking on doors, mailing literature, holding candidate town halls, making phone calls and texts and working tirelessly to get out the vote. We endorsed candidates from both major political parties in federal, state, and local races and we know that our efforts had an important impact on tonight’s outcome.

Today is a win for America’s workforce, and we look forward to working with members of Congress the next two years on progressive change. This wouldn’t have happened without the hard work of our 318,000 members nationwide, and we know tonight they are celebrating the election of Congressional leaders who will stand by their side and fight for them in Washington.

AFSCME President Lee Saunders:

With great courage and conviction, working people fought back in this election against the rigged economy, standing together and sending a message to the wealthy special interests.

For the first time in nearly a decade, the U.S. House of Representatives will have a pro-worker majority. And in many states, where extremist governors have spent years viciously attacking the rights of public service workers, we fought back and prevailed. Bruce Rauner, the multimillionaire governor of Illinois who was the original plaintiff in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, was trounced in his re-election bid. Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin who stripped away our collective bargaining rights in 2011, also went down. Pro-worker governors in Pennsylvania and Oregon retained their seats. And in Nevada, Minnesota and Michigan, voters elected new governors who are champions of working people. Governors will receive help in advancing a pro-worker agenda from newly elected allies in state legislatures across the country.

Some important races have yet to be called, but we know this: AFSCME members organized and mobilized in overwhelming numbers during this election. Working with our allies, we harnessed the power of grassroots organizing to make a powerful case for real change.

The corporate CEOs and the politicians that do their bidding do not relinquish power without a struggle. And they rig the rules not just of our economy but our democracy—giving themselves a built-in and unfair electoral advantage.

But AFSCME members and their allies are resilient. We woke up today even more confident in our values, more determined than ever to stand up for our union, our families and our communities. Because we never quit.

AFT President Randi Weingarten:

In a sharply divided electorate, the American people sent two very important messages. First, on a federal level, they voted for a check and balance on President Trump and were inspired by the women on the ballot. Our values and aspirations as a nation were on the ballot, and, in district after district, the American people chose decency over cruelty, fairness over prejudice, and democracy over demagoguery, by electing a new majority in Congress.

Second, on a state level, people voted for problem solvers as governors and in their statehouses—governors committed to finding solutions that make life better for children and families, and who believe in public education, good healthcare and rebuilding roads and bridges and water systems. Voters flipped statehouse after statehouse by electing new Democratic governors in Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico and Wisconsin, and they maintained Democratic governors in every state Democrats already held. And the wins were even more impressive in state legislatures, from New York to Colorado to Oregon to pro-worker, pro-civil rights, pro-public education ballot initiatives.

Working people in many of these states have faced years of attacks on their rights, disinvestment of public schools to fund tax breaks for the rich, and attacks on healthcare and voting rights. When public education was on the ballot, voters overwhelmingly chose to invest in public schools and stand with teachers, even electing AFT members as governors in Michigan and Minnesota. And while the safe staffing initiative narrowly lost in Massachusetts, we will continue to fight for affordable healthcare and safe staffing across the country.

Trump spent this campaign doubling down on hate, division and lies. And in a divided country, it’s disappointing that this demagoguery helped some of Trump’s acolytes narrowly win in places like Florida and Ohio. But even with this divisiveness, voters in Florida also restored voting rights for felons, which is not just a win for democracy but shows what is possible when lies, racist attacks and misrepresentations aren’t front and center.

On balance, it was a night in which a majority of Americans voted for a check on Trump’s cruel and inhumane agenda, and for leaders who will find solutions to make life better for people.

Alliance for Retired Americans Executive Director Richard Fiesta:

Voters over the age of 50 rejected Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s mid-October pledge to cut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security to pay for the deficit created by last year’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

Older voters shifted their votes significantly toward House Democrats last night, with 49% voting for the Democrat for the House and 50% for Republicans, an increase of 13% over 2014, according to the national exit polls. Health care and protection for people with pre-existing conditions were clearly on the ballot, and older voters crossed traditional party lines to vote for candidates who would support them.

The most engaged voting bloc in the months leading up to the election, comprising 56% of the mid-term electorate, was over the age of 50. For the last two years we’ve seen unprecedented political engagement by retirees, with more attending candidate events and rallies, contacting their representatives and donating to candidates.

Now we must go to work to bring drug prices down, expand Social Security and make health care more accessible and affordable.

All elected officials should be on notice that retirees are watching their actions closely and will vote for those who fight for them.

Amalgamated Transit Union International President Larry Hanley:

Workers across this great country mobilized for the midterm elections. It is time for our nation to move forward and continue the fight for economic and social justice for all Americans.

Throughout this politically divisive and bruising midterm election season, we are proud of the role ATU members across the country played to mobilize transit riders to vote and elect more diverse, pro-transit, and pro-worker candidates like Jennifer Wexton in Virginia, Susan Wild in Pennsylvania, Mikie Sherrill in New Jersey, Abby Finkenauer in Iowa, and others. Public transit was also a winner on election night with transit ballot initiatives passed including in Connecticut and Tampa.

From Pensacola to Las Vegas, to Lansing and many other cities, our brothers and sisters reached out to passengers at bus stops and transit centers, and provided transportation to voters who could not get the polls to vote.

On behalf of the more than 200,000 members of the Amalgamated Transit Union, we pledge to continue to fight for better public transit, health care for all Americans, and the right for workers to have a voice in the workplace as the assault on the middle class across the United States continues.

Communications Workers of America President Chris Shelton:

This election represents a beginning, not an end. CWA members are ready to make sure that a progressive pro-worker agenda that puts the needs of working families ahead of corporate CEOs and Wall Street bankers is at the center of the discussion in Congress, in state capitals and in communities across the country.

Working families needed a victory in the midterms and CWA helped deliver it. We now have a check on the whims of a president who prefers attacking people on Twitter to addressing the real problems that our communities face and a Congress that focused on tax cuts to corporations and the one percent at the expense of programs that help everyone else. And in the states we have powerful new voices that will advocate for the advancement of the priorities of working families.

Electrical Workers International President Lonnie R. Stephenson:

Last night, I was in Madison, Wis., watching the election results come in, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude for all of the hard work so many of you put in over the last many months.

I was the Sixth District vice president in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker decided to make destroying unions the centerpiece of his right-wing agenda, and to be back in that state on the night we sent him packing was quite a moment. Governor-elect Tony Evers will be a friend to working families, and I’m proud of the work IBEW members did to put him in office.

More importantly, I’m proud that we stuck to the issues. Whether it was protecting Social Security and Medicare or making sure that folks with pre-existing medical conditions can get the care they need; or making sure that working people have the right to join together in union and negotiate for a fair deal at work; or putting an end to the partisan gerrymandering that stacks the political deck against the least powerful; we stood up and made ourselves heard and backed candidates—regardless of party—who pledged to put working people first.

We didn’t win every race that we wanted to, but there are signs for hope. Gov. Bruce Rauner in Illinois—another politician who decided unions were the enemy—is looking for a new job this morning. In Michigan, Gretchen Whitmer reclaimed the governor’s mansion in a union stronghold that inexplicably went right-to-work in 2012. Now, we start to turn the tide.

There were victories from IBEW members running for office and family members of IBEW members, and I hope even more of you will choose to run in the future.

Moving forward, there are area where we can work together, Republicans and Democrats alike. America’s infrastructure badly needs an upgrade, and IBEW members are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work. On trade and jobs and workplace safety, we can find common ground and make real progress over the next two years. I look forward to getting started.

But, for now, for every one of you that made phone calls, sent letters, knocked doors or talked about the candidates and the issues on the jobsite, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Whether your candidate won or lost last night, you made a difference, and you did the IBEW proud.

Longshoremen International President Harold J. Daggett:

Americans voted in record numbers in yesterday’s 2018 mid-term elections where ILA members and working families everywhere help return the U.S. House of Representatives to a Democratic Majority. The ILA celebrates the reelection of our endorsed candidates Senator Robert Menendez in New Jersey and Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York and applauds the efforts of Andrew Gillum in Florida; Beto O’Rourke in Texas and Stacey Abrams in Georgia.

The face of American politics is changing for the better and for the ILA. A record number of women were elected to the House of Representatives which will now serve as a much-needed check on an anti-union president and Senate. Labor’s voice has returned to Washington and to many state houses across the nation.

Machinists International President Robert Martinez Jr.:

The American people have chosen action over distraction. This is a clear sign that the political pendulum had swung too far in favor of Wall Street and corporate CEOs.

It is past due for politicians in Washington and across the country to set aside their differences and unite to find real solutions. Instead of pursuing policies that hurt working people, like so-called ‘right-to-work’ laws, our elected officials need to put power back in the hands of working families.

The answer is not another tax break to pad the pockets of millionaires. Nor is it to slash Social Security and Medicare, which we have paid for and count on. Attacks on working people and our unions will not be tolerated.

We stand ready to work with this Congress and the administration to stop the outsourcing of jobs, raise wages, defend pensions and healthcare, strengthen laws against discrimination of all kinds and protect the right of every worker to join unions.

I want to especially thank Machinists Union members who took time out of their busy schedules to vote and volunteer this election cycle. The voice of working people was heard loud and clear thanks to you.

National Nurses United:

With much of the national focus on changing control of the House, National Nurses United today highlighted what may be the most significant, and lasting election development—ongoing momentum for grassroots activism, especially on the critical issue of health care.

NNU welcomed the unmistakable rebuke to the corporate agenda, especially on health care—as reflected in multiple House races, and in the election of many candidates who better reflect the diversity of the nation, and said the new majority in the House should serve as a brake to some of the worst abuses on worker’s rights and public protections.

In particular, NNU hailed “the movement led by RNs around the country, including Florida and Texas, that put Medicare for All at the center of the national debate,” said NNU Co-President Jean Ross, RN.

Numerous NNU endorsed candidates were elected Tuesday, including Governors Gavin Newsom in California and Tim Walz in Minnesota, and dozens of House candidates from coast to coast who will strengthen support for the growing movement for Medicare for All.

They include the first two Muslim women in Congress, Ihlan Omar in Minnesota and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan, Deb Haaland in New Mexico, in a breakthrough for Native American women, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who becomes the youngest woman elected to Congress and a national progressive champion.

Widespread dismay over health care costs, and access, especially for people with pre-existing conditions made health care the leading issue for voters.

Public demand for real solutions on health care were seminal in flipping the House; expanding Medicaid coverage in red states Nebraska, Idaho, and Utah; and electing additional advocates for guaranteed health care through Medicare for All.

NNU, said NNU Executive Director Bonnie Castillo, RN, will work with the growing House Medicare for All caucus to press for action on Medicare for All, while also continuing to escalate movement building in states from coast to coast.

NNU also hailed the passage of several additional ballot measures such as votes in Arkansas and Missouri to raise the minimum wage.

Most notably, said Castillo, was the passage of Amendment 4 in Florida which will restore voting rights to about 1.5 million formerly incarcerated people, including about 20 percent of Florida’s African American adult population—“a huge victory for voting rights, that will also have a major impact on national and state politics.”

At the same time, Castillo said, the demagogic incitement of racism and anti-Semitism, and widespread cases of voter suppression, especially evident in Georgia, cast a dark shadow over the future of democracy and must be directly challenged.

“We must do everything we can to encourage and assist this process, including continuing to build a broad movement for the transformative social change we need on issues that unite people, from health care to environmental protections to voting rights and confront the enormous powerful interests who dominate our economic and political system,” Castillo said.

The best antidote to those politics, like the campaign for real health care reform, is activism, said Castillo. “Mass action by a diverse array of activists, especially young people—the defining development in this election year.” 

Office and Professional Employees President Richard Lanigan:

To put the blue wave in context, 46,466,425 people voted for Democratic Senate candidates and 33,239,469 people voted for Republican Senate candidates, resulting in Democrats losing a net 2 seats in the senate. 

While that might not be considered a blue wave, millions of working people mobilized to vote for representatives who support their issues. Yesterday’s midterm results mean there will not be a rollback of Social Security or the elimination of safeguards for the millions of Americans with pre-existing health conditions.

With more women and people of color in history now taking their place in the House and anti-worker governors such as Scott Walker roundly voted out of office, the working people of this nation have made it clear they want leaders who reflect them and their values and who will work to protect their hard-fought rights and freedoms.

Theatrical Stage Employees International President Matthew D. Loeb:

Last night’s results were a victory for working people all across the country.

Worker champions defeated anti-worker governors in Wisconsin and Illinois. We elected labor-endorsed congressmembers in New York and California. New and returning labor-friendly Senators will head to the Senate from Nevada, Pennsylvania and several other states.

IATSE-supported candidates won in almost every state where we competed, and even where the final result didn’t go our way, the hard-fought organizing of IATSE members and allies from across the labor movement made races competitive in places we never thought we had a chance before.

This election marks an important beginning to our efforts to return power to the working families of this country, and we will not rest until every IATSE member is represented by people who understand the value of our work and of workers’ rights.

UAW President Gary Jones

This vote was a loud statement by Americans that they want action on jobs, healthcare, education, fair trade, income growth and a future for their children. If 2016 was a statement about being fed up with politics as usual and wages being too low to make ends meet—2018 was about working people telling politicians they want less rhetoric and more action and progress. It is time to come together and deliver for working families in this country and future generations. We must not go backwards.

UAW members demand progress and unity from all our elected leaders. They want an end to fear mongering and bickering. They insist on real progress on trade, creating more good paying jobs, raising wages, and lowering health care costs. Progress is needed for not just their sake but for them on their children’s and grandchildren’s future—and they want politicians to stop their constant attacks on their health care, social security, job protections and civil/human rights. Enough is enough.

The American people told our elected leaders yesterday that it is time to stop dividing us and to start uniting us and work for all of us. For UAW families this should mean an end to the constant assault on common sense health and safety protections in the workplace; on the right of workers to join together to organize; and on economic policies that favor billionaires over working families. This means an end to constant attacks on our right to affordable and comprehensive health care and the ability to retire with dignity. This means putting an end to schemes from special interests and wealthy campaign contributors to gut Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Skyrocketing prescription drug and education costs must be curtailed. Powerful special interests must be directly confronted. No more kicking the can. Americans sent a message that they demand an end to divisive politics on civil rights and human rights. Congress must work to protect the dignity of all Americans. The message is clear—it is time to unite and it is time for our politicians to represent all Americans and discard the poll-driven politics of hate that have become so dominant in recent years.

In Statehouses across the country, voters also made their message clear on Tuesday. Voters expect government to focus on quality of life issues like the water we drink, the roads we drive on, the education of our children and the jobs of the future. The working men and women of this country are tired of partisan attacks on working families, on workplace health and safety, on privatization schemes that benefit wealthy donors who focus less on public services and more on profit. Tuesday, voters told governors and legislatures across the nation to stay out of stoking partisan fires over our private lives and focus instead on our public services. It was a back to basics message.