Election crunch time

By Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain

The 2018 election could readjust America’s pro-corporate agenda, which places an iron heel of oppression on the neck of American workers. Since January 2016, we have seen a steady push by the president and Congressional leadership to deregulate, undermine environmental protections, and degrade workers’ rights. The shift to increase corporate power is breathtaking. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’s drive to privatize public education was partially halted this month when a court ruled against her efforts to unwind President Obama’s rules protecting students from predatory student loan practices. 

Congressional leadership and President Trump were successful in rolling back the Dodd-Frank law’s consumer protections early in 2018. Remember, these protections were a direct result of abuses by the banking industry that resulted in the Great Recession that began in 2008.

Trump’s efforts to undermine the collective bargaining agreements between the Federal Government and the American Federation of Government Employees is just one of a series of efforts to reduce workers’ rights. The Supreme Court’s Janus decision in June is another so-called “right-to-work” attack to the heart of our workers’ movement. The push by the Trump Administration to eliminate any barrier to profit and wealth for those of his class is blatant and impacts our country from the selling of public lands to environmental rollbacks to privatizing the Postal Service and VA to the undermining of Obamacare. 

Thankfully, American workers are paying attention, and are motivated and engaged in the 2018 elections. Democratic socialist candidates defeated long term legislators in New York and Massachusetts, reflecting our desire for an America that works for all, not just a select few. Poll after poll reveals a blue wave that could sweep this country, pushing Republicans out of control of the U.S. House of Representatives and possibly the U.S. Senate. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is fighting for his political life in a state that is fed up with anti-worker shenanigans. 

Yes, if we work hard, we could change the face of America.  But don’t for a second think this will be easy. Polls are a snapshot of what is happening now, not what is reality on Election Day. Those in power will not give up without a fight, spending millions in the process.

Oregon is a classic example of a pro-corporate effort to install one of their own as governor. Since the May primary, Knute Buehler and a dark money campaign have spent millions to bring down a popular and successful Gov. Kate Brown. Phil Knight has contributed $1.5 million to the Buehler campaign. While Buehler portrays himself as progressive and bi-partisan, his voting record paints a very different story: He’s voted against the minimum wage increase, investing in transportation improvements, paid sick leave, and more which — you can find on BuehlerBadForWorkers.com. 

Too many are not paying attention to Oregon’s gubernatorial election, forgetting Election Night 2010, when we went to bed thinking Republican Chris Dudley would be our next governor.  Thankfully, John Kitzhaber won by a few thousand votes. Our win in 2010 came from the hard work of workers across Oregon going door to door, talking to co-workers, and of course making telephone calls. We are all stepping up our game in 2018 to maintain the pro-worker, progressive wall on the West Coast, which is reflected in our union density and pro-worker policy wins such as Medicaid expansion, one of the highest minimum wages in the country, and establishing a path forward for our housing crisis. Many of Oregon’s problems occur from national pressures but are solved by a state that finds solutions from a worker and family perspective: It’s up to us to keep fighting for solutions that put workers ahead.

The Oregon AFL-CIO is a 138,000-member-strong federation of labor unions.

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