Building the Battleground Bench: Union Members Elected to Office Across the Great Lakes Region

Frank Snyder

While the labor movement was busy helping to elect pro-worker candidates in important elections in Kentucky and Virginia this week, union members themselves were on the ballot, and they were elected to local offices across the country at an impressive rate. This result was especially pronounced in the battleground states in the Great Lakes region, where an energized union candidates program helped carry union members to victory.

In Pennsylvania, organized labor helped elect its endorsed candidate to the Superior Court in the Commonwealth and elected hundreds of union members to local offices. Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder, himself a victorious union member candidate for auditor in Carroll Township in York County, recognized the significance of the program. “There is no better way to ensure that working people are represented than through the election of card-carrying union members,” Snyder said. “It's not enough to elect supporters of workers' rights, we must elect champions of workers' rights. Today, we did just that."

More than a dozen union members were elected or re-elected to local office in the Cleveland area on Tuesday night, bringing the number of members within the North Shore AFL-CIO Federation of Labor holding public office to over 40. Harriet Applegate, executive secretary of the North Shore AFL-CIO pointed out how supporting union member candidates can immediately have an impact on public policy. “No one understands the needs and interests of working people better than our members themselves,” she said. “When our members are empowered and have the resources to win local elections, it brings a whole new perspective to the halls of government.”

The Greater Northwest Ohio AFL-CIO helped to elect members to City Council seats in Toledo and Maumee, among other local offices. Across the state, the Ohio AFL-CIO supported 51 union member candidates in the election and 32 won their races. “The whole purpose is to support candidates who believe in collective bargaining, who believe the economy is not some mystical thing but rules put in place by those we elect,” said Ohio AFL-CIO President Tim Burga. “Those rules can create living wage jobs, project labor agreements, collective bargaining laws and a fight for fair trade.”