Retired Manchester, Maine, Local 1837 member Cynthia Phinney and Chicago Local 134 apprentice Lily Wu have been invited as official guests to attend President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night from the Capitol in Washington, D.C.
Manchester, N.H., Local 1837 member Cynthia Phinney has been invited to be the guest of Rep. Jared Golden during President Donald Trump’s 2019 State of the Union Address.
Phinney will be the guest of Rep. Jared Golden of Maine, and Wu will be the guest of Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
“I’ll be listening to see if the president indicates a commitment to being sure the NAFTA he brings to Congress has the changes needed to make it a deal that actually has what we need to build an economy that works for regular people,” Phinney said. “We’ll be listening to see if he has a plan to address the health care crisis facing so many people in this country.”
Members of both houses of Congress are each allowed to invite one guest to watch the address from the gallery of the House of Representatives, where the speech has been delivered before a joint session of the House and Senate since 1913.
Wu — a first-generation Chinese-American — will be longtime labor ally Duckworth’s guest in the House gallery. In a press release announcing her attendance, Wu described herself as “trying to break into a male-dominated field and live the American dream.”
Both, it seems, were chosen because they represent the importance of working families and opportunity to the members who invited them.
“Golden made working people’s issues, trade, and unions central to his campaign message, and he continues to do so,” said Phinney, who is now serving as president of Maine’s state AFL-CIO chapter.
Before being elected last November to his first term representing Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, Golden served two two-year terms representing Maine’s 60th District in the state’s House.
“We worked closely with the congressman when he was in the state legislature,” Phinney said. “He has always been a champion of working-class issues. Being invited to attend the State of the Union address as his guest was a good, symbolic choice.”
A longtime union activist, Phinney joined Local 1837 in 1991 as a meter reader. Seven years later, the local hired her as its first full-time organizer; from 2004 to 2010, she served as its business manager.
In 2015, she became the first woman to be elected president of the Maine chapter of the AFL-CIO. The body represents more than 40,000 active and retired Pine Tree State union members under the jurisdiction of more than 160 union locals — including nine Second District IBEW locals.
Phinney traveled to Washington this week via Amtrak, bringing her husband, Paul Wilson, along for the ride — although it had taken some time to settle on when exactly they would be coming to the nation’s capital.
The U.S. Constitution directs that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” It’s up to the Speaker of the House to officially invite the president to deliver the address.
So, in early January, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Trump to deliver his address on Jan. 29. But as the partial shutdown of the federal government that began on Dec. 22 dragged on, Pelosi suggested that the president should delay his speech until after an agreement could be reached to resolve the budget impasse that caused the shutdown. After the government reopened on Jan. 25, the two leaders settled on Feb. 5 as the new date for the address.
“Congressman Golden contacted me a couple of weeks ago,” Phinney said, “before we knew when — or even whether — the address would be held, although they settled on a date not long after.”
And watching and listening from the floor will be Rep. Donald Norcross, an active member and former business agent for Folsom, N.J. Local 351, who has represented the Garden State’s 1st District since 2014.