The President's Column: We Endorse Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

September 1, 2020

November’s election is truly a matter of life and death.

ggresham_520_feat.jpgOur 1199SEIU Executive Committee has endorsed Joe Biden and Kamala Harris to become the next President and Vice President of the United States. This should come as no surprise to any 1199 member.

The clear and present danger that Donald Trump presents to American democracy, to the future of Planet Earth and our very lives is obvious.

Four more years of the worst presidency in U.S. history is simply unacceptable.

November’s election is a matter of life and death. I mean that literally. As I write this, our country is headed toward at least five million COVID-19 infections and has just surpassed more than 160,000 deaths from the virus.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that in some regions, the actual figures may be from two to thirteen times the official numbers.

Most of us remember like they were yesterday the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, which took 3000 lives. Now, imagine such attacks happening every three days--week in, week out--for the past five months. The current 160,000 COVID deaths are equal to fifty 9/11 events.

Of course, there’s no way to figure how many of these deaths are directly due to Donald Trump’s empty leadership, but unquestionably there are tens of thousands. Just as deadly as the virus were several months of denial, accusations of a hoax, falsely bragging that things were under control and that the virus will simply go away.

And here we are, five months later, the United States still has no national policy on masks, testing, or protective gear for frontline healthcare and other essential workers. Ours is the only advanced industrial country in the world where the pandemic remains out of control. With less than 5 percent of the world’s population, we have more than 25 percent of the world’s COVID-19 infections and deaths. And this isn’t even accounting for the loss of more than 40 million jobs, and with them, the loss of life-saving health coverage for so many. Like I say, this is a lifeand- death election.

Even without the pandemic and the economy’s collapse, this wouldn’t be an ordinary election. Not since Woodrow Wilson celebrated the Ku Klux Klan at the White House has there been a president so outwardly white supremacist. Donald Trump appears to be running for President of the Confederacy, rather than President of the United States. From the time he announced candidacy in 2015, he has done little to hide his hatred and contempt for African Americans and non-white immigrants, and Latinx and Native persons.

Not that we couldn’t see this coming. It was clear when Trump called Mexicans rapists and criminals and a Nazi mob in Charlottesville very fine people. It was clear watching him simmer a years-long resentment and envy of our first Black President, precisely because he was our first Black President.

And so it has gone: Donald Trump’s near-daily casual insults targeting people of color—especially women of color. His obsessive (and illegal) building a wall against an imaginary invasion of Mexican and Central American workers. His separating and caging of children. His dispatching a militarized police force to U.S. cities to gas and beat peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters. His support of Confederate flag-bearing mobs armed with assault weapons at state capitals.

Donald Trump has made clear law and order is for the rest of us, but not for himself, his family and his lieutenants. Fortunately, in Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, we have candidates who will put an end to Donald Trump’s presidency, along with his lies, his corruption and drive toward fascism.

Unlike Trump, who has sided with corporations over working people and stoked divisions based on race and ethnicity, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will fight for and alongside 1199SEIU members and our families to ensure that we all have the right to join together in unions, regardless of the color of our skin or where we were born.

Earlier this year, campaigning for Biden in the South Carolina Democratic primary, Representative James Clyburn said, “I know Joe Biden. I know his character, his heart, and his record. Joe Biden has stood for the hard-working people of South Carolina. We know Joe. But more importantly, he knows us,” Joe Biden knows 1199SEIU.

He knows the instrumental role we played in electing President Barack Obama and himself in 2008, and again in 2012. Five years ago, when we launched our Fight for $15, Joe Biden came to New York to stand with us alongside Governor Andrew Cuomo.

When we elect Kamala Harris, the daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants—note I said “when,” not “if”—we will be making history in electing the first female Vice President, and the first Vice President of both African and South Asian descent after nearly 250 years of American history.

We are proud to support Joe Biden and Kamala Harris because they will lead a strong federal response to the pandemic that will allow us to finally beat back the coronavirus. They will support allowing every worker in the U.S. to join a union with collective bargaining rights. They will support and make real a $15 federal minimum wage. They will fight to make voting a right free of theft and suppression and easily accessible to every American adult. They will fight for immigrant rights and a path to citizenship to all who want it. They will return the United States to the Paris Climate Accords and take immediate bold action to combat climate change. They will fight to break down the systemic racism and exclusion that keeps all working families from getting ahead. They will reverse Donald Trump’s tax policies, which were great for multinational corporations, CEOs and the stock market, but not for working families. In short, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will help build an America that works for us all.

We 1199ers—together with our other SEIU sisters and brothers—number over two million essential workers. With our families, we are more than five million strong. If we do our job—and I would argue that our most essential job in the coming weeks in to elect Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and defeat Donald Trump—we can be the difference that wins on their election November 3.

Because of COVID-19, especially in some of the battleground states, we can’t know yet what all our campaigns will look like, but we already know that each of us has co-workers, family members, neighbors, friends and co-worshippers. We can call them to make sure they call others to register and vote, whether it’s by mail, absentee ballot, or at the polls.

I hope you are ready to fight like your life—and your families’—depend on it.

Because it does.

1199 Magazine | July / August 2020