November's Election and the IBEW Members Leading the Charge for Change

Next month's elections could determine the future of the labor movement in the U.S.

"I wish that was an exaggeration," said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson. "But the truth is, our country, and especially working families and the labor movement, are at a tipping point. On one side, it's more of the same attacks on union members, stagnant wages and wealth flowing to the top 1 percent. And on the other side, it's a Congress and state and local officials who are willing to work with us to make sure the economy works for every American, no matter their income."

Thankfully, Stephenson's concerns haven't fallen on deaf ears. Across America, IBEW members have stood up and demanded change.

In Missouri, union members faced down out-of-state billionaires and special interests in August to reject right-to-work by an overwhelming 2-to-1 margin. In public-sector workplaces, union members are recommitting to their unions and to one another in the wake of the outrageous, union-busting Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court ruling. In Atlanta, 700 gas and electric workers stood together in one of the IBEW's largest organizing campaigns of the year.

But it doesn't stop there. As November approaches, an extraordinary number of members are taking their commitment a step further, throwing their hats into the ring to run for public office, from Congress to statehouses, city councils, school boards and more.

Below, you'll hear directly from a few of those candidates about the issues that matter most to them and find out what pushed them to stand up for change. Many of those issues are on the ballot in November, and while there won't be an IBEW sister or brother running for every office, there is often a clear choice between a candidate who will stand with working families and one who will choose to side with billionaires and CEOs without thinking twice.

"I'm constantly awed by my IBEW brothers and sisters who take the brave step of running for public office," Stephenson said. "We need more of them at every level of government because no one — no matter how much they're with us — understands our issues like our own members.

"Between now and Nov. 6, we all need to get out and work like hell to make sure we put more of our friends in a position to help. This is our chance to elect candidates who are willing to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with us on the issues that matter to working families."

Follow these links to learn more about the Issues at Stake and other Allies of Working Families running in November.

Rep. Donald Norcross 
Folsom, N.J., Local 351
Running for: U.S. House of Representatives (incumbent)

New Jersey Rep. Donald Norcross is the highest-ranking elected IBEW member in the U.S. The Local 351 inside wireman has represented New Jersey's 1st Congressional district since 2014.

On the stump, Norcross has a favorite way of introducing himself.

"There are 218 lawyers in Congress and only one electrician," he says. "It's clear we need more people in elected office that understand the importance of a fair day's pay for a hard day's work."

Norcross first ran for office in 2009, winning a seat in the New Jersey State Assembly more than 30 years after starting his apprenticeship.

"All the issues that my IBEW brothers and sisters live through and experience shape my work in Congress," he said. "Early in my career, I was a single parent having to balance two nights of apprenticeship school, making it to work in the morning and being a parent. During this time, I was earning $4.13 an hour and, throughout my decades-long career, when construction work was slow, or I was injured on the job, I was thankful for unemployment and disability insurance."

During his four years in Congress, Norcross has sponsored dozens of bills to improve the lives of working families. The Workplace Democracy Act makes it faster and easier for workers to come together in union and makes it harder for corporations to get around worker demands for collective bargaining. The 529 Opening Paths to Invest in Our Nation's Students (OPTIONS) Act enables individuals enrolled in apprenticeship programs to fund tools and equipment for the program out of a tax-free college savings plan. The Raise the Wage Act would raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

But Norcross doesn't have enough like-minded colleagues — people who have made their living outside law firms and boardrooms — to get the bills passed. He wants company.

"Our members know, firsthand, the benefits of coming together to raise our voices in the workplace; I encourage everyone to carry that message to voters and to our leaders," he said. "I encourage those members running for public office to speak to their real-life experiences. You, too, can go from a construction site to Congress and have the honor to represent America's workers each and every day."


Rep. Donald Norcross 

Del. Cory McCray 
Baltimore Local 24
Running for: Maryland State Senate

Campaigning to represent working people in Maryland's state Senate is the "hardest I've ever worked in my life," said Cory McCray.

It was always going to be an uphill battle: The Democratic representative from Northeast Baltimore has served in the state's House of Delegates since 2015; his primary opponent for the Senate seat had held it for more than 20 years.

But the Local 24 organizer, the sole member of the trades in the House, saw Senate service as an opportunity to advocate strongly for worker-focused issues ranging from voting rights to the need for more apprenticeship opportunities.

McCray's hard work paid off — he won by 17 points. No Republicans ran for the seat, so he'll assume office in January.

For an IBEW member thinking about going into politics, "have a firm idea of what you want to accomplish," he advised. "Learn the basics — how to keep track of data, raise money, be familiar with neighborhoods, build your universe." But don't forget why you're there.

It probably won't be easy. "But when you see bills that affect apprenticeships — when you can actually do something — you remember that a lot of people are counting on us to be successful," he said.


Del. Cory McCray 

Sen. Paul Feeney 
Boston Local 2222
Running for: Massachusetts State Senate (incumbent)

Paul Feeney is in a hurry. A Verizon central office technician by trade, he ran Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in Massachusetts and Connecticut, was a selectman for the town of Foxborough, and served as the legislative director for Local 2222.

Last year, he won a special election for an open seat in the Massachusetts state Senate, and now he is running for his first full term. He's also a licensed pyrotechnician — launcher of fireworks for the layman — which may be the only way to explain how he rocketed through the state's typically-crowded political world.

Since his election, Feeney has been doing the important and unglamorous work that makes government work for working people, sponsoring and cosponsoring bills that protect vulnerable children, fund athletic facilities and prevent bureaucratic overreach in collecting student debt.

Feeney chairs the committee on public service and sits on joint committees for public health, consumer protection and professional licensure.

"Regular working-class people in our communities deserve a voice in the Massachusetts Senate," Feeney said. "It starts in this district, but it can happen anywhere. No one understands our issues better than we do, and it's time for more of us to run for office."


Sen. Paul Feeney  

Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh 
Manchester, N.H., Local 2320
Running for: New Hampshire State Senate (incumbent)

Serving in the New Hampshire Senate has always been a rich man's job. The five-month session each year comes with a total salary of $100. It's a commitment most working people can't afford to make.

But state Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh, assistant business manager of Local 2320, is different.

"I'm lucky to have some flexibility," said Cavanaugh, who remarkably also serves as one of 14 Manchester aldermen. "We have great politicians, but how many people have blue-collar backgrounds? That voice is needed, but it is rare," he said.

Cavanaugh was a telecommunications line worker for close to two decades. In his race for alderman, he used the connections he made in the labor community and as an enthusiastic coach for kids' sports. "If I didn't know everyone, I knew their kids," he said.

In the state Senate, Cavanaugh is focused on workforce development. New Hampshire has low unemployment, but an aging workforce. He and the voters in his district want to make sure their kids have those good jobs someday.

"We all want our kids to have good jobs nearby, where we can see them without getting on a plane," he said. "This unites business and workers, right and left. That is where we find common ground. I couldn't have won this without talking with people from all sides of the political spectrum and saying, 'We want to do right for your family and your kids.'"


Sen. Kevin Cavanaugh

Donald McKinney 
Fort Smith, Ark., Local 700
Running for: Arkansas House of Representatives

Donald McKinney wants to one day lead the repeal of Arkansas' right-to-work law, which dates back to 1944. In the meantime, the journeyman inside wireman plans to give the state's working families a much-needed voice.

"My campaign is all about small business and the working man," said McKinney, a Local 700 organizer and the Democratic nominee in District 81. "Most of my district is made up of blue-collar men and women, and I just focus on their issues."

The district is a rural area in northwest Arkansas, where McKinney faces a first-term Republican. But he knows unseating him won't be easy. The GOP has a 76-24 advantage in the state House and his opponent got 72 percent of the vote in the 2016 election.

He's found that local voters who lean Republican are receptive to his message of protecting workers' rights. He's promised to fight for a raise for public school teachers, for instance.

Now, the plan is to convince those voters to switch allegiances when they enter the voting booth. As an organizer, McKinney is accustomed to getting people to view something differently. That's why he decided to run.

"I tell the truth with how I feel about things and they seem to respect that," he said. "They also seem to respect that I'm a blue-collar worker running for office. I'm not part of the status quo. I understand what they're going through."


Donald McKinney  


Shawn Judson 
Lakewood, N.J., Local 1289
Running for: Lacey Township Council

In Lacey Township, N.J., the U.S.'s oldest operating nuclear plant is shutting down.

"They're saying, 'It's going to be OK,'" said Shawn Judson, referring to the township's governing committee. "They're just not telling us how it's going to be OK."

To get answers for her fellow union members who live in the Jersey Shore community and work at Exelon's Oyster Creek Generating Station, Judson is running again for a spot on the town council.

Her first try was in 2012. Although she lost in her quest for a seat on the five-member committee held exclusively by Republican men, the first-time Democratic Party candidate received nearly a quarter of the votes cast.

"Our town has no dissenting vote or voice on the council, definitely no one representing working families," she said in explaining her motivation to run again. "There has to be a willingness to have everybody work together."

Supported by Local 1289's leaders, the union activist said she's staying away from partisan politics, connecting with residents on issues such as jobs, drugs, alternate energy sources and even speed humps.

Judson encourages other women to considering running for office, too. "I tell them that they can do it," she said. "It can be tough, but don't be afraid to step up."


Shawn Judson  

Pam Hacker 
Philadelphia Local 98
Running for: Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Pam Hacker will have spent 35 years on jobsites when she retires in March. The journeyman inside wireman hopes to start a new career at about the same time.

Hacker is the Democratic nominee in Pennsylvania District 26, up against a near three-decade incumbent. She decided to run because she was convinced her opponent was increasingly out of touch with his constituents, even declining to vote on some controversial legislation.

"I am fighting for those who actually do the work," said Hacker, who was one of the first 12 women to take part in Norristown, Pa., Local 380's apprenticeship program when she was initiated in 1984. "The kudos goes to the people who propose and run the work, and that's important, but I will look out for the guy who works because that is where my roots are."

Both of Hacker's parents were union members. Being an IBEW member convinced her unions are the best way to ensure equal pay for women. She noted that skilled workers on a jobsite work together collaboratively for a project's success. She'll bring the same mindset to the statehouse.

"This is my way of giving back," said Hacker, who served on the Local 380 executive board before it was absorbed into Philadelphia Local 98. "Our members and our union leaders who fight to support and protect labor need legislators in Harrisburg who will do the same."


Pam Hacker

Mike Walter 
St. Louis Local 1439
Running for: Missouri House of Representatives

Mike Walter was active in local politics throughout his IBEW career, which culminated with a 10-year run as business manager and six years on the International Executive Council. Requests to run for public office were common.

Now, since his retirement in 2017, he's convinced the time is right.

First, the Missouri Legislature passed a right-to-work law. Voters later rejected it by a 2-1 margin during an August referendum, but it reminded Walter that leaders with a labor background are needed more than ever.

Second, he got a call from Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill, whom he has known for several years, urging him to get active.

"She told me, 'Your name has been thrown around a lot,'" Walter said. "I know your career with the IBEW. I know you know how to herd cats, and I know you know hard work. I would love for you to do this.'"

So, Walter is running for an open seat in District 95 in south St. Louis County. He advanced to the general election after running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Walter said he has lived in the district for 32 years and it leans Republican, but most of the voters are moderates, no matter their political party. He thinks those voters are ready for a pro-working family message.

"Our strategy is to make sure labor is motivated and gets out again, like it did for the right-to-work vote," said Walter. "I want to be a voice for the working people of Missouri."


Mike Walter 

Jason Woolard 
West Frankfort, Ill., Local 702
Running for: Illinois House of Representatives

Jason Woolard has long been active in the southern Illinois community where he was born and raised. He served eight years on a local school board and always thought there might come a time to run for higher office.

That came in 2016, when his home district elected a state representative with little regard for working families and who aligned closely with Gov. Bruce Rauner, who has made contempt for unions a central part of his administration.

Woolard, a Local 702 business agent, ran unopposed in the Democratic primary and now will face the incumbent in November.

"I always said if there was a need, I would run," he said. "After the last election, I know the time was right."

The 117th District is socially conservative but often elects leaders who side with working families. In many ways, Woolard is a return to that tradition.

He vows to protect workers' rights and add good-paying jobs to the area — much like he does as a business agent — while fighting against tax increases on working families. Illinois has well-documented budget problems, but Woolard said efforts to fix them too often fall on the backs of middle-class families.

"I think our message is resonating not just with labor people, but with the general public on what labor unions have done for southern Illinois," he said. "We've built and protected the middle class, and I plan to keep doing that in the Legislature."


Jason Woolard  

Mike Ellison 
Salem, Ore., Local 280
Running for: Oregon House of Representatives

All candidates talk about the economy, but few of them are out knocking on doors in a working-class neighborhood an hour after hanging up their tool belt for the day.

"When I tell them I'm an electrician and that this is my first time running for office, it really opens up the conversation," Mike Ellison says. "They can see I'm someone like them, not a politician standing at their door."

Even right-leaning voters have been receptive to the Democrat on their doorstep. "Oregon is experiencing one of the most prosperous economic periods in our history, but none of us are really feeling it," Ellison says. "People's wages haven't gone up. The only thing going up is prices."

Another thing going up: class sizes, and the stress that school budget cuts are putting on working families. Voters are fed up, and as the father of three boys, so is Ellison. It's a critical way the "booming" economy is failing the people he wants to serve.

"In order to have an economy that works for all of us, we need to elect working-class people," he says. "There's not enough representation for everyday workers who get up in the morning and go earn a paycheck. I tell people, 'If you're a working person, I'm fighting for you, whether you vote for me or not.'"


Mike Ellison 

Jennie Sherwood 
Las Vegas Local 357
Running for: Nevada Assembly

Political newcomer Jennie Sherwood beat the odds in her June primary and if she can do it again in November, Nevada has a shot at electing the nation's first majority-female legislature. And that's not all.

"If I'm elected, there's a high probability that Democrats will have both houses for the second straight session," Sherwood says. "That means we can continue to fight to reverse hits that workers took under Republican control, like securing our collective bargaining rights, solidifying prevailing wage and fending off attacks on retirement security."

Proactively, she's eager to fight for expanded apprenticeships, affordable health care for all Nevadans and higher wages.

Support from union brothers and sisters has been "an amazing feeling," she says, as is the response from would-be constituents. "Talking to voters really means listening to voters. I knock on doors all the time, and when voters hear that you're there, that they can reach out to you, it means everything. It's inspiring and keeps me going."

She can feel victory within reach. "There are enough of us out there on the job every day that if we come together to support the candidates that will fight for us, and if we show up at the polls, our votes can win elections. We have a lot of power. We just have to use it."


Jennie Sherwood

Bill Troutman 
Reading, Pa., Local 743
Running for: Pennsylvania State Senate

A journeyman electrician and union activist, Bill Troutman's political goals are laser-focused on workers and working families: a higher minimum wage, quality affordable health care, derailing right-to-work legislation, helping small businesses create jobs and more.

If he gets the chance to fight those battles as a Pennsylvania state senator, he believes he can open more people's eyes to the value of unions. "People don't hate higher wages, job protections, benefits or safe workplaces," he says, but with so many lies peddled about unions, "they just don't know the truth."

"If the people trying to destroy our unions get their way, does anyone honestly think they're going to stop? No. They're going to go after rights and protections that help all working families — equal opportunity, family leave, overtime, anything they can get their hands on."

It's vital, Troutman says, for all voters "to understand what's really at stake here. This election, this political moment we're in, is about what we've accomplished in the last hundred or so years — not only in terms of labor, but in civil rights; in women's rights; in making our air; water and soil safe; in fair housing; in supporting people with disabilities; in the very idea that America works best when we all do better."


Bill Troutman 

Marty Moylan 
Chicago Local 134
Running for: Illinois House of Representatives (incumbent)

Three-term Illinois House member Marty Moylan spends many days knocking on doors and speaking with constituents. The retired electrician isn't about to relax on a beach somewhere.

"It's important that we get our members to run for office," said Moylan, who previously served as the mayor of Des Plaines, Ill. "One person can make a difference. Sometimes, it's lonely. You have to spend a lot of time away from your family, but the outcome is always for the greater good.

"You can explain better than anyone how our workers are better trained and have the knowledge to get the job done."

Moylan is seeking a fourth term this November. He represents a competitive district in the Chicago suburbs that includes Des Plaines. His first two wins were by narrow margins, but he won by nearly 20 points in 2014.

Much of his focus is on jobs and property taxes, two issues that mean the most to his constituents. But he led an effort in the House last year to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of a pro-union, anti-right-to-work bill that failed by a single vote.

Still, Moylan remains committed to fighting right-to-work in the state, despite Rauner's best efforts.

"When you talk about jobs," he said, "that's what gets our members out to vote."


Marty Moylan

 Editor's Note: This list is not intended to be comprehensive. There are hundreds of IBEW members across the U.S. and Canada in office or seeking office, and we thank each of them for standing up for working class values and the right to join together in union.