The President's Column: Elections Are About Building A Country That Works For Us All

February 26, 2020

Candidates who want our support need to stand with us when we need them.

ggresham_520_feat.jpgUnlike most countries—Canada, France, Japan, and Mexico, for example—where election campaigns only last a few weeks, our country’s campaigns seem to go on forever. It’s as if the next campaign begins the day after an election. It can be exhausting. But, sisters and brothers, in this election year of 2020, we cannot afford to become weary, bored, or disinterested.

I’m not a gambler, but I know that in poker there is something called table stakes, where every player bets all their chips, and the winner takes all. This year’s elections are political table stakes and we are all in. Everything we hold dear is on the table. We simply can’t afford to lose.

I hope every 1199er is paying close attention to the upcoming elections. You would be doing yourself and your loved ones a disservice if you are not. We will need each of you—including our tens of thousands of wonderful retired members—to play your part. This means registering to vote, and of course, voting. For those of you who may not be eligible to vote, you are still eligible to register others, phonebank, and door knock. Every one of us can talk to our co-workers, friends, neighbors, and relatives, about what’s at stake in November. We can also have these conversations with our church families and with members of the clubs, societies and civic groups to which we belong.

Obviously, the presidential race is, by far, the most important, but also keep in mind that one third of the U.S. Senate, all 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, many governorships, and most state legislative seats will also be on the ballot.

We are a large union representing hundreds of thousands of workers from the tip of Florida to the Canadian border. Our members are what former New York City Mayor David Dinkins used to call a “gorgeous mosaic,” embracing virtually every religion (or none), ethnicity, color, gender identification (or none), and various political parties (or none). Even with our many differences, 1199ers understand that we are ALL workers and we are all under attack by the corporate powers and politicians who do their bidding. Moreover, we are healthcare workers at a time when the federal government and some states are doing all they can to deny affordable coverage.


In the past, many politicians— supposed friends of labor—looked on unions as kind of an ATM, embracing us during an election and forgetting us until the next campaign. Those days are gone.

That said, 1199ers aren’t just workers; we’re also taxpayers, breadwinners, parents, siblings, consumers, neighbors, students, and much, much more, so as working people, we have a lot at stake this election year. Every one of us has some mix of concerns about the future of our jobs, the wellbeing of our communities and loved ones, the quality of public education, the cost of higher education, the future of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, the quality of our air and water, the threat of climate change, the rise of white supremacist and racist movements, the attempt to wall off our country while expelling millions of hardworking immigrants, our unending wars, and other issues that keep us up at night and are too numerous to list.


So, with all this in mind, we will be carefully listening to what the various candidates say—and more importantly, what they have done— to protect and advance working families. One subject that’s often missing from election campaigns is what the candidates have done and will do to stand up for unions—the most important and effective weapon workers have to make our collective strength felt on our jobs and in our communities. Who has fought for our right to organize new workers free from employer intimidation? Who has stood with us in a contract fight?

In years past, many politicians— supposed friends of labor—looked on unions as kind of an ATM, embracing us during an election and forgetting us until the next campaign. Those days are gone. If candidates want our support when they need us, they should know that we will support those who are with us when we need them. There are no free passes here. They must earn our support.

We 1199ers are a powerful force because we do not give in and we never give up. This year, we are ready for the fight of our lives. And every candidate who wants us to stand with them needs to understand that elections are not simply about helping them to victory, but about the future of our families, our planet, and building a country that works for us all.

- 1199 Magazine: January / February 2020