ILWU helps pro-union candidates

Pro-union voters:  ILWU members at work sites all along the west coast are reviewing pro-union candidates and issues for the November 8 election. Recommendations from ILWU District Councils are available at local union offices and can be found online at www.ilwu.org in the October Dispatcher (L-R):  Local 10's Nelson Ayala and Melvin Mackay with Local 75 member Dave Terry at the Port of Oakland.

Pro-union voters: ILWU members at work sites all along the west coast are reviewing pro-union candidates and issues for the November 8 election. Recommendations from ILWU District Councils are available at local union offices and can be found online at www.ilwu.org in the October Dispatcher (L-R): Local 10’s Nelson Ayala and Melvin Mackay with Local 75 member Dave Terry at the Port of Oakland.

As the Dispatcher goes to press in mid-October, teams of ILWU members are being dispatched to work in six states where pro-union candidates are fighting to win seats in the U.S. Senate – and stop anti-union Presidential Candidate Donald Trump from reaching the White House.

In early September, International President Robert McEllrath notified local unions and pensioners that the ILWU Titled Officers had developed a “Battleground States Campaign Plan.”

“The officers would like to send a team of two ILWU members plus one pensioner to six states where a pro-union candidate needs our help,” McEllrath explained, adding that the teams will work hard during the final two weeks of the election.

“The goal,” he said, “is to elect enough pro-union members in the U.S. Senate to secure majority support for unions and working class concerns.”

Here’s a roundup of teams that were preparing to depart for locations around the country:

Nevada

Regina Shore from Local 19 is leading the ILWU’s Nevada team with Keith Madding of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) San Francisco Region plus Local 19 members Kevin Baldado and Steve Labbe. Their goal is to reach working class voters in Clark County, the area surrounding Las Vegas where 2 out of 3 active Nevada voters reside. The ILWU is backing Senate candidate Catherine Cortez Masto, Nevada’s former Attorney General who is pro-union and trying to take the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Harry Reid. She’s running against Joe Heck, an anti-union candidate funded by big business and the Koch Brothers. Heck had a slight lead in early October polls, but experts believe Latino turnout could determine the race, and one of Heck’s family members was recently caught sending racist insults about Latinos. In a desperate move, Heck dropped his longstanding support for Donald Trump on October 8.

Pennsylvania

Local 5’s Dane Fredericks is heading the ILWU’s Pennsylvania team with Gary Bucknum of the Inlandboatmen’s Union (IBU) Columbia River Region and Local 19 member Alexandra Vekich. They will be working to support U.S. Senate candidate Katie McGinty, who is pro-union and hopes to become the state’s first female U.S. Senator.

She’s running against first-term, antiunion, incumbent Pat Toomey who backs “free trade” agreements for big business and opposes union rights.

The team will focus on suburban “swing” voters surrounding Philadelphia who are expected to determine the election’s outcome. Recent polls show McGinty and Toomey were in a virtual tie, with Toomey waffling on whether he supports Donald Trump Ohio IBU member Erik Ferrel is leading the ILWU’s Ohio team with Local 5 member Mark Sailor and Victor Pamiroyan from Local 6. The

Ohio team arrived in Cleveland and is squaring-off against a clever, first term, anti-union incumbent Senator named Rob Portman, who opposes strong labor laws and has been weak for working families. Portman’s campaign is financed by big business and the Koch Brothers. The ILWU candidate is former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, a strong union supporter. Recent polls show Portman leading Strickland, but the race could still be won with a good turnout.

Basketball superstar LeBron James recently endorsed Strickland and other pro-union candidates in Ohio. Antiunion Governor John Kasich is backing Portman and both men have distanced himself from Trump; although Portman continued backing Trump until one day before early voting opened on October 11.

Wisconsin

The ILWU’s Wisconsin team is being led by Washington staffer Bianca Blomquist who’s working with Local 13’s Christine Aguirre. The duo hopes to help former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold re-take his former seat from antiunion incumbent Ron Johnson. The two are nearly tied in a close race that may be determined by voters living in the Milwaukee suburbs, where Aguirre and Blomquist expect to invest some of their time. Feingold is a strong union supporter who lost his seat in 2010 to Johnson – a wealthy business owner and Tea Party favorite. Other antiunion politicians, including Governor Scott Walker, also gained ground in 2010, passing laws that stripped public employees of most union rights.

ILWU members from Locals 10, 13, 26, 63 and 94 attended mass protests and a sit-in at the State Capitol building. Walker’s Presidential bid fizzled quickly five years later, but scapegoating unions for job losses caused by capital flight remains a staple of Wisconsin politics.

Florida

Local 19’s Todd Weeks is leading the Florida team with Walter Smith and James Jackson, Jr., both from the Alaska Longshore Division. The trio arrived in Miami where many believe the region could determine the State’s hotly-contested U.S. Senate and Presidential races. Former Presidential candidate Marco Rubio broke an earlier promise by deciding to retain the Senate seat he previously renounced.

Rubio has steadfastly maintained his anti-union stances and recently flip-flopped to endorse Donald Trump after both spent months hurling insults at each other. Rubio is now attacking the ILWU-supported candidate for U.S Senate: Patrick Murphy, a former Republican who switched parties in 2012 to become a moderate/conservative Democrat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Missouri

Local 8’s Brent Bissett is leading the ILWU team in Missouri with Local 5’s Ron Solomon and Local 10’s Melvyn Mackay. They’re helping U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kandor who is trying to unseat anti-union incumbent Roy Blunt. Kandor is a former Afghanistan veteran; Senator Blunt is a Trump supporter who avoided the draft and military service by getting three deferments.

The Senate race here is one of the closest in the country. The ILWU team expects to be working around the St. Louis area, but will travel wherever they can contact voters. Blunt’s family is filled with lobbyists who have taken advantage of the Senator’s position in Washington; his wife is a lobbyist, along with his children Matt, Andy, and Amy who are also registered lobbyists.

The Senator has also been criticized for living in a $1.6 million mansion in Washington that costs about 15 times more than an average home in St. Louis or Kansas City.

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