Baton Rouge The last session of the Local 100 annual leadership conference looked at politics. The Local 100 leadership from Louisiana, Arkansas, and Texas is largely African-American and Hispanic and numbers more women than men. Eleven of the more than thirty in attendance were over sixty-years old. Talking to members about how they had voted in their state primaries, there weren’t any Trumpeteers in this bunch. The vast majority had ended up pulling the lever for Hillary Clinton, but Bernie Sanders had significant support as well, and the Clinton voters were sympathetic to those voters and tended to argue a more realpolitik rationale in troubled times. There was little enthusiasm or passion. Most saw it as a job to be done, and they had done their duty.
On the other hand, as the conversation tilted to November and showdown, there was deep conviction and some real excitement, not so much about Hillary, as about beating Donald Trump. They thought there was work to do and the task was unambiguous. There was no talk of “sitting it out,” but only commitments that they were “all in.” Trump had put the fear of God in the union leaders, and it translated into battle cries.
Admittedly, this is hardly a random survey. These are all leaders with long experience fighting for their rights on the job, so none hesitate when faced with another fight in another forum.
It was interesting how closely people were already following the race and the polls. Part of their motivation was to see if there was a way to pile up the score sufficiently around the country to flip the Senate and provide some margin for getting some real work done and some change from the Supreme Court to the Congress. One impact of the Senate’s refusal to hold hearings on the nomination particularly, as judged by these African-America union leaders, is that it was seen as unprecedented and therefore arguably just the latest example of a racial insult only happening because there was a black President. Who could say otherwise? The outcome of the Senate Republicans’ refusal seems to be labeling the Supreme Court as partisan as Congress, rather than a neutral administration of justice. The legacy of these actions will cast deep shadows over the future.
A chance to flip some seats in the Senate in the telling of most was less about payback and more about the chance to actually make change. In looking at the intersection of worker and community issues, the leaders had discussed their campaigns to eliminate lead in the schools and pry loose more dollars from tax exempt hospitals to fill the gap that has been created by Texas refusal to expand Medicaid and tight-fisted employers providing insurance with deductibles ranging in Local 100 companies from $3500 to $6500. A different Senate might mean real relief, and that’s also a big incentive for hard work on big turnout for November.
Not than any of the candidates are campaigning on these kinds of fundamental meat-and-potatoes issues, but people have had enough of the gridlock and stalemate. They’re swallowing hard to see if they can send a message in November and make a difference, regardless of the candidates.