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December 2014

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Few Silver Linings

I'm not going to pull any punches. The 2014 midterm elections were about as close to a disaster for working families as you can get.

Republicans won control of the Senate, knocking off pro-worker allies like Kay Hagan in North Carolina and Mark Begich in Alaska. And governors like Scott Walker in Wisconsin and Rick Snyder in Michigan, who spent much of their first term attacking collective bargaining rights, managed to win re-election in highly contested races.

We did everything we could this election season. All over the country, IBEW members were knocking on doors, making phone calls and talking with their neighbors in support of union-endorsed candidates — and that made the difference in the few victories we celebrated Nov. 4 in places like Minnesota, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. And IBEW members scored a big victory in southern New Jersey, where voters overwhelmingly elected Local 351 assistant business manager Donald Norcross to Congress.

But despite these silver linings, Nov. 4 was a bad night for working people as elected officials hostile to organized labor seized control of the Senate and many state houses.

The midterms weren't a mandate for the tea party's extreme agenda. Exit polls reveal that Americans — who rated the economy as their top issue — are frustrated with their own continuing financial insecurity. Unemployment may be down and the stock market up, but 70 percent of voters say the economy is still in bad shape. And more than 60 percent think the government is to blame, saying it only serves the interests of the wealthiest Americans. But they voted for candidates whose agenda benefits primarily those at the very top of the economic heap.

Take a look at Arkansas. At the same time voters sent extreme right winger Tom Cotton to the Senate, they overwhelmingly approved an increase in the state's minimum wage. Same thing happened in South Dakota and Alaska — despite the national GOP's opposition to raising the federal wage.

Years of stagnant paychecks and too many dead-end Walmart jobs has Americans scared about their future — and angry at elected officials. This year they took it out on President Obama and Democrats.

Looking on to 2016, we need to make sure our endorsed candidates fight unapologetically for working families' bread and butter concerns and keep the focus on what's most important — good jobs, shared prosperity and a rebuilt path to the American dream.

Until then we're going to keep the heat on politicians who think they have a green light to further attack our rights on the job, slash investment in jobs and education, and threaten vital programs like Social Security and Medicare. The 2014 election is over, but for working families the fight has just begun.


Also: Chilia: Lessons from the Golden State Read Chilia's Column

Edwin D. Hill

Edwin D. Hill
International President