This year’s U.S. midterm elections delivered unexpected victories for hundreds of Democratic candidates at the federal and state level during a time when the incumbent party typically struggles. These results will have a huge political impact over the next two years, most notably in the form of Democrats retaining control of the Senate. But beyond the impact on national party politics or any individual race, these midterm elections were also an undeniable sign of what U.S. voters actually want.
Voters turned out in droves – especially young voters – and overwhelmingly they voted for candidates that represent the interests of workers and workers’ rights. Voters in Illinois enshrined collective bargaining into the state’s constitution, saying no to so-called “right to work” laws that undercut unions. Voters in Nebraska and Washington, D.C. said yes to a higher minimum wage. Voters from California to Michigan to Kentucky said yes to better health outcomes for women by rejecting proposed abortion bans. And voters said an emphatic no to candidates who continue to peddle false election claims that threaten our very democracy.
Is it a coincidence that these results come at a time when Americans’ approval of labor unions stands at 71 percent, the highest mark we’ve seen since 1965? This positive public perception is due in part to the tireless work of the Laborers’ International Union of North America (LIUNA) and its District Councils, Local Unions, affiliates, members and signatory contractors. LIUNA and the entire labor movement also benefit from the unwavering support of President Biden, who always speaks loudly and proudly about the importance of unions and working people.
It’s easy to see why more and more people approve of unions, especially in these uncertain economic times. A recent Economic Policy Institute (EPI) report lays out the broad range of benefits that unions create for workers, communities and the economy. The average union worker earns 10 percent more than a non-union worker in their industry with the same experience. Unions drive equity by helping to eliminate discriminatory pay gaps across gender and racial lines. And as we often discuss at the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), union workers are much more likely to have high-quality health insurance and long-term financial security in the form of retirement plans and savings.
Unions aren’t just good for workers – they’re good for communities and democracy too. The EPI report went on to note that when unions are weakened, such as through restrictive “right to work” laws, the result is lower voter turnout overall and fewer working-class candidates on the ballot. This leads to policies and candidates that don’t serve the needs of workers, their families or the communities where they live. By contrast, a strong union presence raises the bar for wages, health benefits and safer working conditions. A strong labor movement promotes income equality and economic growth that we can build on.
This year, U.S. voters said yes to preserving their right to organize, said yes to protecting their health and said yes to building a future that gives everyone a voice. Unions have been bringing these values and policies to their members for decades. Now it’s time to continue that fight beyond these midterms elections so we can offer a hand up and a path forward to even more workers and their families in the years to come.
On behalf of the LHSFNA and the entire LIUNA family, we wish you and yours a safe, healthy and happy holiday season.