Leaders of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the International Association of Machinists came to Vancouver and Portland Sept. 7-8 calling for job creation in the United States and offering support to political candidates who favor investing in programs and policies that will help make that happen.
It was the second stop of the Painters’ nationwide “It’s About Jobs” bus tour that started Sept. 7 in Seattle with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. The tour will span 18 days, 50 events, and roughly 5,000 miles, encouraging workers along the way to vote in the upcoming mid-term elections. Machinists union leaders joined the Painters on the West Coast swing of the tour.
“It’s not about Rs or Ds. It’s about J-O-B-S,” said Painters General Vice President Ray Sesma at a Labor-Neighbor event Sept. 7 at the Fire Fighters Local 452 Hall in Vancouver. Labor Neighbor is the Washington State Labor Council’s political organizing program where union volunteers go door-to-door to meet and talk to other union members about the candidates and election issues.
“Our candidates are the type of candidates that bring the one word we want to hear to a campaign … jobs,” said Machinists International President Tom Buffenbarger the following morning at the IBEW Local 48 hall in Northeast Portland, where more than 100 union members also heard from U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, Congressmen David Wu and Kurt Schrader, and a half-dozen politicians seeking local offices.
The featured speaker in Vancouver was Third District congressional candidate Denny Heck. “Somebody said not too long ago that creating middle-class jobs is the civil rights issue of our times. I believe that,” said Heck, who vowed to “put my shoulder to the wheel to get job creation going.”
In Portland, Rep. Wu counted off a list of accomplishments Democrats have achieved in the last two years, including reforming high interest credit card ripoffs, prohibiting taxpayer bailouts of “too large to fail” banks, changing the health care system so that those with pre-existing conditions can no longer be prevented from buying insurance, and passing stimulus legislation that saved the country from falling into a second Great Depression.
“Don’t you believe that we haven’t gotten anything done,” Wu said. “That is the prevailing view. Why? Because the other side wants you to remain in your chairs in this upcoming election. If we do that, they win.”
Union leaders acknowledged that workers have a right to be worried — and angry— about the slow pace of the recovery. “These are very serious times, with difficult times ahead,” Sesma said. “That’s why we have to make sure we get the right people elected to Congress and to the state legislatures that will put people back to work.”
Buffenbarger said it’s comical how labor is so often berated for being too demanding. “We don’t ask for much,” he said. “What we really demand is a good job. One that pays a living wage, allows us to buy a home, maybe a car, raise a family, be able to educate them in a safe community … with access to health care; that we might be able to retire with a safe and secure pension and do so with dignity and respect after working our way — working our way — through life. Is that too much to ask for in this country?”
Buffenbarger said labor’s endorsed candidates can’t win by themselves. He asked union members to talk to co-workers, friends, and family and encourage them to vote for candidates who offer the best hope of creating and maintaining family-wage jobs.
All along the West Coast bus tour Buffenbarger promoted ‘Bite Back,’ a two-minute Machinists Union internet advertisement urging the millions of unemployed and underemployed Americans to vote in the mid-term elections.
“The ad is designed to remind unemployed voters who stole their jobs, gutted their savings and then blocked their unemployment extensions,” said Buffenbarger, adding that America’s unemployed would be the new swing voters in this year’s elections. The advertisement is produced by Ur Union of Unemployed, also known as UCubed. The web address is www.unionofunemployed.com.