The Good Fight
November 2004 IBEW Journal
We delayed the print date of this issue of the Journal so we could comment on the election before it was old news. We were hoping for a more favorable outcome, one that would give our members in the United States some hope for a brighter economic future. However, the votes are in, and we must accept the results with the same class and dignity as Senators John Kerry and John Edwards.
First, its time to give thanks. Thanks to every IBEW member who voted in the election. As we have said many times, the right to vote is precious, never more so than when our troops are putting their lives on the line to defend that right in other countries. The large labor turnout was a tribute to the civic spirit and patriotism of union members.
The biggest thanks go to the IBEW members and the IBEW staff who worked so hard to register voters, knock on doors, hand out leaflets, work the phone banks, take people to the polls and monitor election places to prevent voter intimidation. Your excellent work and selfless dedication personifies everything good about the labor movementteamwork, commitment, sacrifice, determination, and the willingness to fight on behalf of your union brothers and sisters and their families. You were the face of democracy and the real heroes of this election year.
The IBEW organized and mobilized an unprecedented political program this year. The same is true of the entire labor movement. Despite an overall decline in union membership from 2000 to 2004, union households accounted for about 1 of every 4 voters this year, about the same as in 2000. Union voters went for the Kerry/Edwards ticket by a margin of 2-1, even more in the battleground states. Without the strong union mobilization, it is unlikely that the Kerry/Edwards ticket would have carried Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan, or come as close as it did in Ohio and Florida. We have every reason to be proud, but much more important, we need to keep in place the infrastructure that enables us to have an impact on the political process which affects all of our lives.
Much has already been said and written in the media about this election. The analysts are examining why people voted the way they did. Surveys show that union members voted overwhelmingly on the basis of economic issues, but other voters cast their ballots primarily on personal values. About 35 percent of union members voted for the Bush/Cheney ticket, and our internal polls just prior to the election showed that about 37 percent of IBEW members supported the incumbents. This is a troubling divide in our union and in the country as a whole. There needs to be a better balancing of enlightened economic self-interest and respect for faith and moral values. We cant have one party perceived as standing for one, and another party for the other. We cant have either party trying to use poll-tested "messages" to gloss over reality. The divide in America has given us two razor-thin electoral margins and resulted in wins for the side that has hurt and will continue to hurt the economic fortunes of working families. There has got to be a better way.
We are not content to say that a 60 percent majority of our members is good enough. As workers and IBEW members, we should be able to unite around a candidate with a much higher level of solidarity than that. So, in the months and years ahead, we will be opening up new lines of communication with our members, especially with those who voted to reelect this president despite his record of overwhelming hostility to working people. We will talk about what can be done to build a stronger political consensus within the Brotherhood. And you can bet that we will also seek to enlist the help of these members in trying to convince President Bush to pull back his anti-labor actions that are inevitably coming down the pike.
In the end, this election was never only about one candidate or the other. It was about people like us and our willingness to stand up and be counted. You did that, and we have never been more proud to be members of this great Brotherhood or honored to be your leaders. We will survive, and we will never give up the good fight.
Mobilization 2004 by the Numbers
AFL-CIO President John Sweeney told the media on November 3 that "union members put their heart into this election." The proof is in the numbers.
This is a portrait of an active, involved labor movement.
Edwin D. Hill
Jeremiah J. OConnor