I support unions, and I’m proud to be endorsed by the AFL-CIO. I believe that all workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits and working conditions. And I know that when unions do the work, it gets done on time and on budget.
Union members in our district can count on me to be the most effective ally they have in fighting to protect their rights, support prevailing wages and Project Labor Agreements, and defeat the ideological extremists who want to put unions out of existence. — Conor Lamb
On March 13th, Conor Lamb rocked the political world by winning a narrow upset victory in the special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional district.
This is a district that Donald Trump won by 20 percent in 2016. There are 118 Republican-held congressional districts where Trump won a smaller margin. As Republican consultant Mike Murphy told The Washington Post, “We should be able to elect a box of hammers in this district.”
So why did Lamb win?
One word: Unions!
Unlike too many Democrats these days, Lamb embraced labor wholeheartedly. He strongly and enthusiastically supported the Davis-Bacon Act and Project Labor Agreements, fiercely opposed “right to work,” and championed massive infrastructure investments.
OPCMIA Local 526 and all the other unions in the district responded in kind.
We turned out thousands of volunteers, who knocked on 34,000 union household doors in this large, partially rural district, and made 48,000 calls to our sisters and brothers. And we turned them out to the polls. This was a grassroots mobilization far beyond anything seen in years.
Plasterers, cement masons, steelworkers, coal miners, fire fighters, and other building trades members all did our parts — together, in solidarity.
Labor’s people power was enough to help Lamb overcome more than $10 million in outside anti-worker money that was spent on negative ads against him. And with Lamb’s victory margin of fewer than 1,000 votes, every single union volunteer can say they made the difference.
There are huge lessons in this for the crucial November mid-term elections. One is that candidates need to as strongly pro-labor as Lamb if they want the volunteer army they’ll need to oust anti-worker incumbents in districts that voted for Trump in 2016. The other is that union members will need to be just as active as they were in Pennsylvania’s 18th district on behalf of candidates who are on our side if we want to take back the House for working families.
As AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka wrote, “During this campaign, working people proved that we will move heaven and earth to help a genuine ally. Labor’s organizing capacity and electoral power were on display … and it’s a preview of what we’re gearing up to do in November. But we won’t waste a dime or a door knock on fair weather friends. If you want working people to rally around you, then you need to rally around us.”
Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson echoed these comments in USA Today, writing, “To win consistently again, Democrats must understand what helped put Lamb over the top in that corner of Trump Country. It was labor, and labor’s priorities. Those used to be ours, and we should assume them again.”
To that, I’ll add one final word: Amen.
Daniel E. Stepano