The 2016 election sounded a powerful wake up call for America and the labor movement. As Congress organizes itself, a new Trump Administration is formed, and the Democrats decide who is to lead their party, we have a choice: learn what works and start to win again, or repeat the same mistakes and end up with more of the same results.
Our Union re-learned two key lessons this election cycle. First, we win when workers talk to our neighbors, and lose when we don’t. Second, issues matter – health care, immigration, jobs, and wages. And we took both directly to the doorstep.
We had important successes based on this approach. Nevada was the only swing state to vote blue. Working with allies in Nevada, we won for Hillary Clinton, elected Catherine Cortez Masto the first latina Senator in US history and elected Ruben Kihuen, the son of a Culinary Union member, to the House. Nevada flipped two GOP incumbent House seats and turned both state legislative chambers from red to blue, the only state to do either. With an inspiring worker, immigrant, faith and student coalition in Arizona, we finally defeated anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio, after registering and mobilizing 150,000 voters.
We all know we need to double down on face to face organizing. But our biggest challenge may be just listening to what voters are saying. A huge portion of our members are immigrants fighting for a decent life. Now, they see the Republicans scapegoating their entire communities as rapists and murders. Our diverse membership also see the Republicans attacking their economic security by trying to tax their health care.
The next few months may get very ugly. We are all going to have to stand strong against attacks on immigrants, health care, unions and working people everywhere. In this climate, it’s clear to me that Rep. Keith Ellison will serve ably as the next chairman of the Democratic National Committee. He is an organizer who listens, looks you in the eye and can tell uncomfortable truths. Rep. Ellison gets that elections are won on doorsteps, not in Washington consultants’ offices. That’s why our Union endorsed him.
We also urge DNC members to support Maria Elena Durazo, for one of the DNC Vice-Chair positions. She is the only national labor leader running for this position. She is a union organizer and has the experience of turning California from red to blue.
We must put workers at the center of American politics and the economy. When millions of workers are talking to their neighbors about health care, jobs inequality and justice for everyone in this country, we have a chance to win and win big.