We Care! We Vote!October 14, 2019
1199ers meet with presidential candidates and fine-tune 2020 issues platform.
In September, 1199ers kicked off unionwide discussions of the 2020 presidential election with a member forum at the Union’s Manhattan headquarters and visits and video messages from presidential candidates and their surrogates.
1199 members from across the regions gathered in New York City’s 1199 Cherkasky/Davis Conference Center on September 16 to learn about and discuss 1199’s Presidential Candidates Issues Platform, which lists the priorities driving the Union’s political work through 2020 and beyond. The event was an opportunity to mobilize politically active members and fine-tune the Issues Platform, which was devised from ongoing surveys of and conversations with 1199ers.
The Platform highlights the central concerns of working families —Health Care for All, Union Rights and Family-Sustaining Jobs, Strong Families and Communities, Social and Racial Justice, Sustainable Long Term Care, Immigration Reform, and Climate Change—and makes plain to 1199-endorsement-seeking candidates where their commitment must be. Members discussed how these issues affect their families and communities, and where elected officials have succeeded and fallen short around them.
Former 1199 Political Director Patrick Gaspard was the event’s keynote speaker. Gaspard, now head of the Open Society Foundations, emphasized the deep commitment needed to recalibrate this moment in history.
“This is not an I moment. This is a we moment,” said Gaspard. “And in order to form a more perfect union we are going to have to knock on every damn door… step up, rise up, and fulfill this moment.”
The day’s featured guest was Sen. Kamala Harris, California’s former attorney general and the state’s first senator of Jamaican or Indian ancestry. Harris, who has supported single-payer health care, sanctuary cities, and DREAMer families, participated in an hour-long question and answer session and shared views on topics ranging from prison reform to housing to child care.
Daniel Sturrock, a specialty resource clinical assistant from Champlain Valley Physicians Hospital in Plattsburgh, NY, quizzed Sen. Harris about her plans for paid family leave and affordable child care. Sturrock and his wife have a two-and-a-halfyear- old son and a second child on the way. Losing his job while his wife was expecting their first child activated him around the issue, he said.
“We can talk all we want about paid family leave,” said Harris. “But if it’s not paid, it’s not real. We have to support you and your spouse, because quite frankly this is about our children.”
Members also questioned Harris about union rights, prison reform, and health care. Later in the day attendees heard a message from New Jersey’s Sen. Cory Booker, who has pledged to address environmental concerns and education, and highlighted the fact that he is the only candidate who lives in a primarily Black and Brown community.
1199ers also welcomed Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who met with a group of unorganized workers and the Union’s Executive Committee. Warren spoke at length with the hospital and homecare workers, asking them about their experiences on the job and the reasons they are fighting for union membership. A stalwart union activist, Warren emphasized the need for organizing rights and a working National Labor Relations Board and worker-friendly Secretary of Labor.
Andy Cassagnol, an ER Registrar at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, who is currently working as a member-organizer, said the attacks on labor changed his view of the country.
“What I thought America was supposed to be was just blown up by these campaigns,” said Cassagnol, referencing the intimidation and threats faced by the workers he met. “If you become president, what actions will you take to make sure workers can join a union?” Warren expressed steadfast support for organizing rights and reforms to re-balance power in every sector of society.
“Where is the real power? It’s with the people who do the work,” said Warren. “And it’s about how we bring that power together and use it.”
Warren’s visit was followed by a Q & A with former Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff. Biden was unable to personally visit the Union because of scheduling conflicts. Members and staff posed questions about health care and voter suppression.
At press time, the Union was preparing to host other candidates so members would have the opportunity to engage with them and learn more about their platforms.