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The soul of the labor movement is the fight for democracy in and outside of the workplace — and, from the shop floor to the ballot box, organizers, volunteers, and rank-and-file workers with UNITE HERE are putting everything they have into that fight. Even in the midst of a deadly pandemic that hit the service and hospitality industries especially hard, union members with UNITE HERE hit the pavement in record numbers ahead of the 2020 general elections.
As Harold Meyerson notes in The American Prospect, UNITE HERE members canvassed “more precincts than any other organization on the Democratic side of the ledger that year. Talking to well over a million voters in Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, they played a key role in Joe Biden’s victory and in the Democrats winning control of the Senate. This year,” ahead of the 2022 midterm elections, “they have even more members knocking on doors than they did two years ago.” As working people face an increasingly unbearable cost-of-living crisis, as the right continues to attack abortion rights (and voting rights, and workers’ rights, and LGBTQ people, and teachers, etc.), as basic human needs like healthcare, housing, and clean water are put farther out of reach for the poor and working classes, as more people give up on a political system they feel gave up on them a long time ago, the fight for a better society is happening at the grassroots level.
In this special panel, recorded a week before the 2022 midterm elections, we talk with three UNITE HERE members — Maggie Acosta (Arizona), Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez (Nevada), and Sheila Silver (Pennsylvania) — about their tireless canvassing efforts in battleground states, what they’re hearing from voters, and what the struggle for democracy means to them and their union.
- UNITE HERE website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, “Can the Hotel Workers’ Union Save the Democrats?“
- Harold Meyerson, The American Prospect, “The Only Precinct Walkers“
- Support the Call Center Workers Solidarity Fund
- Brett Anderson, The New York Times, “These Cooks, Waiters and Casino Workers Could Swing the Senate“
- UNITE HERE Press Release: “Largest Canvass Operation in NV, AZ, and PA Sees Path to Victory vs. MAGA Republicans“
- Leave us a voicemail and we might play it on the show!
- Labor Radio / Podcast Network website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- In These Times website, Facebook page, and Twitter page
- The Real News Network website, YouTube channel, podcast feeds, Facebook page, and Twitter page
Featured Music (all songs sourced from the Free Music Archive: freemusicarchive.org)
- Jules Taylor, “Working People Theme Song
Studio: Maximillian Alvarez
Post-Production: Jules Taylor
Maximillian Alvarez: All right. Welcome, everyone, to another episode of Working People, a podcast about the lives, jobs, dreams, and struggles of the working class today. Brought to you in partnership with In These Times magazine and The Real News Network, produced by Jules Taylor, and supported entirely by listeners like you.
So we’ve got a special and urgent episode for y’all today. As you know, the midterm elections are fast approaching and will be taking place across the country on Tuesday, November 8. A lot of high stakes races going on from the local up to the state levels, from governors to everything in between. And of course, as anyone who listens to this show knows, things are… There’s some pretty dark stuff going on in the country right now. The battle over what remains of our democracy is being fought as we speak, and every single one of us has a role to play in that fight, and that very much includes the labor movement.
And that’s what we’re here to talk about today, because we’ve got a really exciting panel here with folks with the amazing UNITE HERE union canvassing in states around the country including key battleground states like Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. And we’re going to introduce y’all to those folks in just a second, and we’re going to talk a bit about the canvassing work that they’re doing, what it means for them as union members to be fighting this fight, what they are hearing from people on the ground that they are talking to by knocking on countless doors in these states. They’re really, really doing the essential work that needs to be done to reach people, to understand what people are going through and what they want from these elections.
So it’s really, really exciting that we are able to pull this episode together, which we are going to turn around as quickly as we can so that it is out with enough lead time ahead of the elections.
Now, before I introduce y’all to our amazing panel, I just wanted to set the table really quick, and I’m going to do that by reading a couple passages from a great piece that was just published today, actually. We’re recording this on Wednesday, November 2. Harold Meyerson wrote a great piece at The American Prospect titled “Can the Hotel Workers’ Union Save the Democrats?” Subtitle: “In Nevada, Arizona, and Pennsylvania, the union has been talking to voters about progressive fixes to inflation for months, when Democrats didn’t know what to say.” So here’s a couple of passages from Meyerson’s piece, just to introduce the topics for today.
So Meyerson writes, “In 2020, when COVID compelled most campaigns to forego canvassing and rely on the phones for voter outreach, UNITE HERE already had special protective gear and protocols devised for its members who’d had to keep working in hotels. Donning that gear and observing those protocols, they proceeded to walk more precincts than any other organization on the Democratic side of the ledger that year. Talking to well over a million voters in Vegas, Reno, Phoenix, Philadelphia, and Atlanta, they played a key role in Joe Biden’s victory and in the Democrats winning control of the Senate. This year, they have even more members knocking on doors than they did two years ago. And by listening to people on their doorsteps, they concluded well before most Democratic campaigns that they had to talk about people’s primary concern: the soaring cost of living.”
Meyerson continues, “For UNITE HERE, putting many hundreds of its members in the field full-time is something of a twofer: Not only are they affecting the course of public policy, but they are building a cadre of members with experience in persuading, motivating, and mobilizing people who need some context and some prodding to take action. Today’s precinct walkers, the union expects, will be tomorrow’s workplace organizers.”
So let’s talk to some of those organizers now. I want to welcome our amazing panelists on the show, and I want us to go around the table and have y’all introduce yourselves to the good Working People listeners. So could we start with Maggie, and maybe say a little bit about who you are, where you are, what you do for a living, and what your connection to the union is, and maybe a little bit about why you are committed to this canvassing effort.
Maggie Acosta: Sure. Well, hello, my name is Maggie Acosta, I’m from Arizona in Phoenix. My connection with the union is that I became a union member six years ago. I was working at Flying Food Group Phoenix, which unfortunately, during the pandemic, closed its doors and left all the workers without a job. My canvassing, it started back in October of 2017, getting ready to do the 2018 elections. Then we went on to 2020. It’s during the pandemic. Nobody wanted to do anything because everybody was scared. But with the advice of an epidemiologist, it’s like we were able to prepare and get out there. For me, it was very scary because, as a cancer survivor, I was afraid. I was afraid to get sick again. I had been going to doctors very often. And yes, hell, I was scared. During that time, it’s my oldest son. He was working, and his husband was working as an HVAC person, and he was an essential worker.
He comes home one day telling me he feels sick, but he thought it was only dehydration. Goes back to work and has to come home. I ended up taking him to the hospital, and the scariest thing happened is he was positive with COVID. It was during this time that it’s like everybody that went to the hospital never came back, or if they came back, it was like they say, feet first. And I was scared. I was like, what did I do? Left him in the hospital? He told me to go home and sleep. I was like, I couldn’t sleep. I stood guard outside of that hospital waiting for his call. Finally, he calls me back and he’s like, Mom, they’re letting me go, but they told me they can’t do anything.
So I took him home. Because even though I was afraid of getting this virus, I couldn’t leave my son. He’s my son. So when he gets worse that he comes to a point that he tells me, he calls me, and then he says, Mom, I feel like I’m dying. I don’t want to die. I didn’t know what to do. II didn’t know what to tell him. I didn’t know anything. And I was very scared, but then I had to be strong for him.
So when UNITE HERE asked me to come out and knock on doors, I said, yes. I had been taking care of myself inside that home, that little apartment, that I could continue doing that outdoors. The end is what kept me going during that time. It was hearing that Donald Trump kept coming to Phoenix, Arizona, and every time he did a rally, he would say, you don’t have to wear a mask. That’s a hoax. That’s not true. This is not happening.
I was very mad at him. I blamed Donald Trump and Doug Ducey for the illness of my son, and that kept me going, because I kept saying, this is something we have to stop. Donald Trump has to get out, and he’s going to do it because I’m in charge of this campaign. So I kept knocking on many, many, many doors. And yes, I was really super excited and happy when we got him out. When Arizona took over and we got Biden inside. I was really proud to know that by us canvassers knocking on those doors, getting people ready and excited to vote because everything that was at stake for us. And the response that we were getting is people would thank us for coming to the doors and informing them.
It’s just as right now, what we’re doing at this moment is everything is at stake here in Arizona. My rights as a woman, my rights, my voting rights as a woman of color. Our Native ancestors. It’s like I wasn’t able to vote, or my ancestors weren’t able to vote until the 1960s. And right now with all these barriers, instead of moving forward, they’re trying to push me back. And this is something that I’m not going to allow. I need to have the right to choose over my own body. I have the right to do my own voting the way I want to. If I want to go in person, I can do it in person. And if I want to do it by mail, I should be able to do it by mail. That’s what I’m fighting for. And that’s what I share with the people at the doors.
And they are aware that’s… Well, not really aware of all these things happening, because everybody’s… Not everybody, a lot of people will say, well, I’m not into politics and I don’t care about this. But once I tell them, your rights are at stake right now. Their perspective changes. And it’s like, no, you’re right. We need to get this done. I have had people that, after talking to them and them telling me, no, they’re not going to vote because they’re not into politics, they have been able to fill out their ballot and send it out. And that makes me really proud because I have made a change and this person was able to… What’s the word? Cast in their vote. Something that they believe that they didn’t have. So I’m a really proud member of UNITE HERE Local 11 for pushing me into doing all this.
Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez: So my name is Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez. I’m in Las Vegas, Nevada. And my full-time job right now, I’m a bartender at one of the casinos here in Las Vegas. I’m a bartender over at ARIA. And I’m a member of the Bartenders Union Local 165. So the reason I’m out here knocking on doors, talking to voters… Let me just tell you a quick thing about my story. I’m a first generation American, born to Mexican immigrants. My parents migrated to the United States in the ’80s, and I was the first child that was born here in the United States. So them not being US residents, they can’t vote. And as soon as I turned 18, I registered to vote because I feel like, as a son of immigrants, I have to be the voice for my family.
There’s a lot of people here in Las Vegas. We have a big minority community here, and a lot of people don’t vote because they come from different countries to make… This is Las Vegas. You have all these casinos on the strip, this glamorous life you see here on TV, whatever. And people come here to work in these hotels. And for me, like I said, being a son of immigrants is important to be the voice of my community for the ones that can’t vote. And canvassing, talking to voters, a lot of people – Again, Las Vegas is a 24-hour city, so people work different types of shifts. You have the mornings, the graveyard shifts. A lot of people work weekends. And they don’t have time to pay attention to what’s going on.
And going to these voters, knocking on their doors and talking to them and letting them know who the union is endorsing and what we’re fighting for, it reminds them what’s really important. And I feel grateful every time I talk to people. I’m giving them the information and they get excited to go vote. Especially here in Nevada. Nevada’s going to be one of the battleground states in this election. You have the US Senate race. Catherine Cortez Masto, she’s running for re-election. And here with the Culinary Union, we’re trying to keep her in office, because she’s done so much for workers here in Nevada, especially during the pandemic.
One thing that affected me and my family, we were worried about how we’re going to pay for health insurance, for medical bills during the pandemic. Ever since I was born, I didn’t mention this earlier, but I grew up in a union. My father has been a union member. He’s a cook at The Golden Nugget. And ever since my earliest memories, I remember that we were part of the union. And that helped me throughout my life. My mom has diabetes. So when the pandemic hit and everything shut down, we were worried. But Catherine Cortez Masto, she fought for us, got us COBRA pay for six months, and that got us on our feet. So knocking on doors, talking to voters about the candidates we’re endorsing, it feels good. And the election’s coming up, and we’re just going to keep on fighting and talk to voters so we can win.
Sheila Silver: Hi, I’m Sheila Silver, member of UNITE HERE Local 274 here in Philadelphia, and I’ve been working with local 274 in various political capacities since 2020. So I find it amazing how I came into UNITE HERE. I was sitting at home with my husband and I got a knock on the door, and it was my nephew. And I told my nephew, come on in. And he said, I can’t. I’m working. I told him, stop working on my nerves and get in the house. He said, no, I’m working. I said, doing what? And he told me he was canvassing. And I stopped. I said, so hit me with it. And my nephew started to have a conversation with me, and I saw him in a different light. My nephew, he’s a very nice young man. He’s very educated for his own right, what he does.
He’s in the culinary part of the union, loves to cook. He’s always friendly. He’s part of the family. He’s my nephew. But I never saw him talk about politics, really. And for him to have the conversation that he had and for him to tell me why this was important to him and what it meant and why he was doing it, I was just amazed. And I had looked across the street and seen other people, two other people, three of them working together that day at different doors. And once they left, one of my neighbors said, hey, you were really talking with that young man. I was talking with this person, but you seem like you know him. I said, I did. But he told me some things that I just never heard from my nephew. He has children. This met what was at risk, and this was during Take Back 2020. And the neighbors were saying the same thing about the canvassers that were at their door, that we had never had anyone knock at our doors and told us personally why they were doing something. I’m in my 60s. And it was just awesome.
A couple weeks later, my nephew called and said, hey Auntie, they need some people. You want to come? And there wasn’t hesitation. I said, yes. For my own personal reasons, but also for the reason that what they showed me, how they showed me my nephew in a different perspective. I said, I just got to see what this UNITE HERE is about. And I worked with them for Take Back 2020 and loved them for letting me be part of history. Shortly after then, I was asked to go to Georgia for Ossoff and Warnock, and we made history again. I came back, and they were still doing things to me that no one else was doing.
They were having campaigns for their workers, which definitely our frontline workers, for vaccination, at that time, wasn’t really accessible to us. And I joined that. Then there was a race for Krasner, one of the most progressive DAs, and I definitely was on board with that. And then Virginia, and now today. And it’s just amazing. I have been with this campaign here with us workers through the front, and one of the first directors of eight field directors. And I started off in March here, and with only eight canvassers. Now, well over 250. And it is without a doubt that we will make the difference as we have done in the past, and it’s just exciting to be part of that. And I will continue to be part of it because the fight is this year. For us in Philadelphia, it’s still going to be next year, and definitely it’s for all of us again in 2024.
Maximillian Alvarez: Hell yeah. Well, Sheila, Brian, Maggie, it is such an honor to be on this call with you, and I’m so grateful to you all for A, making time in the different parts of the country that you’re in while you’re canvassing less than a week before the elections to sit down and chat with us, and B, for being so open and for sharing your stories with us. I’m so incredibly grateful to all of you for the work that you’re doing and for making time to share your stories with us and our listeners. And I think one of the things that’s just so obvious just from hearing y’all, and this is something that I’ve definitely heard from other union members and workers who are canvassing like yourselves, whether that is with UNITE HERE or not, is I grew up very conservative. I grew up hearing all the talking points of like, oh, the unions are in the back pocket of the Democrats. The Democrats are in the back pocket of the unions. Everyone is just supporting each other just because.
There was never really a good reason. It was just, oh, they’re together on this. I don’t know, they’re corrupt. Whatever the reason was. But I think anyone who listens to y’all tell your stories, can hear so immediately it’s like, no, this is personal. This is meaningful. There’s so much tied to your own personal lives, your communities, your families, your workplaces, that is motivating you to get in on this fight and to do everything you can to reach as many people in your areas as you can. And that, I think, is really incredibly powerful and something that I really hope everyone who is listening to this takes to heart. And that is why we think it is so important to lift up the voices of amazing folks like Brian, Sheila, and Maggie.
And I actually wanted to go back around the table and ask if y’all could talk a little bit more about the canvassing that you have been doing this cycle in your areas. And if you could just say a bit more about what the day-to-day work of that canvassing entails for you and what you’re hearing from folks on the ground. I read from the article at the beginning that one thing that has emerged is that a lot of people, understandably, are really freaked out about the cost of living crisis. Who would’ve thought? The answer to that is anyone who’s not rich. But I wanted to ask if you could say a little more for folks listening about what you’re hearing on the ground and when you’re getting in these conversations with folks as you’re going around knocking doors?
Maggie Acosta: Yeah, so you’re right. One of the things that they ask and they have mentioned is the rent increases. People having to… Families moving in together because they cannot afford these prices going so high. And just to think that instead of helping the working class, it’s all this is being helped for the corporations. So as we’re talking to the people out there, it’s putting that example. It’s like, okay, so right now it’s the time to elect the people that are going to work and that care about working-class people. And those are Mark Kelly and Katie Hobbs, that’s here in Arizona. Some people have confused the names and they have said… It’s like, but Katie Hobbs is the one that it’s… I can’t recall exactly the words. It’s the one about the ad on the TV that talks about the Latinos and their crime. They bring crime to our country and they’re rapists and they’re other stuff.
So it’s a thing we have to laugh and jokingly say, no, you got that confused. It is Kari Lake that’s the one saying that, not Katie Hobbs. The names are so similar, so they get them confused and it’s like, no, it’s like we’ve got to get Hobbs in the office. Hobbs is the person that cares about people.
So telling them Hobbs is how hard, her plan on helping people, save on products for babies, for kids, for school. Things that these people, the voters, don’t know because they are so confused. And then they get these ballot samples and all this propaganda that tells them the opposite. So it’s definitely very confusing until we come and talk to them and explain what is at stake. Sharing our story, sharing why we’re out there. It can be raining, it can be 120 degrees, but we will be out there knocking on their doors. They’ve seen that. They think we’re crazy. But yes, we are crazy for justice. We want to make a change. So yes, we are crazy. And I love doing that, because when I get to talk to these people and they actually understand, they are happily like, hey, I never thought that by doing this, by voting, we would be able to make a change.
Explaining how one of them… The way that I like to explain it is like, okay guys, so how did you feel in the last four years when we had Trump in office? And then right away it’s like, oh no, no. It’s like, well … It was like, we need to get these people in office. We need to get Katie Hobbs and Mark Kelly. Because if we don’t, it would be like bringing Trump to Arizona. It’s like, do you want that? Because Kari Lake is repeating everything that Trump said and Blake Masters the way he is. One of the things, privatizing social security, it’s like, come on. It’s like, is that what you want? No. So it’s a thing of informing all these voters, because it’s like other propaganda. It’s just lies.
Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez: You mentioned one of the things that we’re hearing a lot with voters is housing. Here in Nevada, here in Las Vegas, that’s one big issue that’s growing. It’s one of the biggest issues that we’re hearing here in the Valley. Just last month I was in the city of Henderson, it’s a little suburb here in Las Vegas, in Las Vegas Valley. I was in the city of Henderson and I was at an apartment complex, knocking on doors. I knocked on one door, this gentleman came out, we talked for a good minute, and he told me that in the apartment complex he’s living in right now, he’s been living there for four years, and this past year his rent went up $400.
So it’s crazy what’s going on here in Nevada. You have all these corporations from Wall Street coming to neighborhoods, buying up houses, raising the rents, and it is affecting a lot of people right now. And then you have the pandemic that happened and all the stuff that happened with the pandemic, it affected the prices of all the goods. So with high rents and the inflation going on, it’s really going to people’s pockets. And going back to the pandemic, there were times we didn’t know what was going on. With my mom, she was working at Texas Station here in Las Vegas, and unfortunately she was laid off. Now, Texas Station, they’re not union, so that company right there, they took advantage of the situation, of a pandemic, and laid off a lot of the workers.
And the governor here in Nevada, Steve Sisolak, he signed a bill called SB 386, the right to return to work, basically stopping companies. Because as soon as the pandemic happened, you had companies like Station Casinos taking advantage and right away laying off people. The right to return to work though, that governor Steve Sisolak signed here in Nevada, it guaranteed companies to put a stop to that. It made companies and casinos here bring back their workers when things reopened up. And when my mom was laid off, it made things difficult for us, but we got through it.
Everyone else returned back to our jobs and we made it work. And right now we’re talking to voters, we just got to inform them, because a lot of people here, like I said earlier, they’re working different types of shifts. Night shifts, day shifts, weekends, weekdays, holidays. This is a 24-hour city, so a lot of people have different schedules, different lives here. And when I go up to these doors, knock on these doors, talk to these people, just letting them know what’s going on, and have them be interested and be ready for this election, it’s heartwarming.
This election, in my opinion, the midterms are more important than the presidential election. It’s more about your state offices and your local offices that you vote for in your midterms. And those offices, whoever’s in power in those offices, affect you and your community the most. Here in Nevada, we have Steve Sisolak running for reelection for governor, we have Catherine Cortez Masto running again for the US Senate. And the congressional districts, the congressional people are running here in the Las Vegas area, we got Susie Lee, Steven Horsford, and Dina Titus. All these people did a lot for Nevadans and casino workers during the pandemic. And the pandemic pushed us backwards, so we just gotta keep going forward and get these people back in office so we can continue to go to work.
Sheila Silver: We are knocking on the doors here in Philadelphia six days a week. And of course we have four days we can come up with the GOTV, and we’re going to take it all the way through with no days off at all. Right now to date, we’ve knocked over 627,000 doors. Most importantly, I think that what I’m really looking at is that we ID’d about 62,884 IDs for Fetterman and 63,045 for Shapiro. And like I said, we’ve got over 230 some canvassers in the field and knocking on the doors here in Philadelphia. We are the poorest city in the United States. Gun violence is something that we hear a lot and it plagues our city.
And we hear that from the voters. But we also hear their frustration for inflation, for gas prices, about greedy corporate America, without a doubt them trying to take the rights of women. But we’re hearing the stress over not fully funding our schools. The fear of a Republican coming into office, because last time one was an office, as I think I stated before, 32 schools being closed in the Black and Brown areas. But we’re delivering the message to the voters from the people that live here. Even though we have many unions that came outside, we have a lot of local people. We are knocking in the same areas where we live and where we work. And that makes a difference. And as I said, when they open that door, they look in a mirror. They see us, they hear our stories, and we listen to theirs, and that makes all the difference.
And they want a good job. They want a union job. They want one job to be enough. Our voters are tired of even two parent households having to work two to three jobs, and they can’t spend the time, quality time, with their children because they have to work more than one job. Two to three jobs just to make things meet, to come together. Just for the basic necessities, forget about a vacation. They want a change. They’re tired of the violence here in Philadelphia. But our voters know and are smart enough to understand that it’s not just about locking people up. They want real change. They want solutions. They want people to hear them. They’re tired. We hear the frustration in their voices. We hear the fatigue, the fear. They want a difference. And we’re urging them that their vote is the difference.
Some of them are at the point, they’re at the fatigue and they think it doesn’t make a difference. But when I’m on the doors, personally, I will go back and let them remember what happened with Biden and Harris, that we knocked on over 313,000 doors and took back 2020. And we identified 64,000 voters, and 34,000 of those voters didn’t vote in 2016. That’s why we were able to do it. That’s what we’re doing now. We tell them we don’t want the same thing to happen as 2016, that we need them, that they’re the difference, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing. And we’re able to persuade them with the sincerity of telling the stories from us who live here locally and from the people that have given up their time, their family time, moved and came here. And I say moved because some of them have been here since July to help us, because they understand that this is a fight, a fight for the whole country, not just this state.
And it makes a difference. Coming to voters that say they can’t go outside, that they’re scared to go outside. Or I spoke with an elderly lady and to regentrify her, you have all these little, I call them little mini mega mansions on her block. And for her taxes to go from $300 to $3,600, unbelievable. But for her to be told that there’s a program, but you didn’t get the program. Why didn’t she get the program? Because you didn’t come in. But yet these same people that are coming into the neighborhood, they have a tax abatement for 10 years. No, we’re paying their taxes for the 10 years. These things are what we’re hearing on the doors and that we’re making the difference and letting them know that the way to fight is to vote.
And we continue to do that every day. And we’re going to do that every day up until the last poll closes on November 8. Because I do know, out here making a difference, listening to the voters and explaining sometimes to some that this is what’s possible and this is what happened in the past. We did it before and UNITE HERE is going to continue to do it. I’m just not going to give up. And the hope is to have so much strength that you can’t even measure it. So that’s what we’re doing at the doors and what we’re hearing from the voters at the doors.
Maximillian Alvarez: And it’s such vital work. Democracy does not happen without people, and without people like y’all working in your communities, hitting the pavement, getting into those conversations, talking to people, really listening to them and their concerns. It’s really an incredible effort, and I think really speaks to the soul of the labor movement. The famous saying is that unions are democracy translated into the workplace. It is working people on the shop floor, having a democratic say in how their jobs are run, in what they get paid, in what safety provisions are provided to them. That is a democratic exercise that so many of us have been convinced doesn’t exist, that we have no say in our jobs and that we have no say when it comes to what management is telling us. But I think that’s why it’s so beautiful and important to see folks like yourselves working with UNITE HERE and beyond, reminding people what democracy looks like.
And I think that that is something that should give us hope now and something that should be carrying us forward, even past the midterm elections. Change is not going to just be granted to us from some great benefactor in the sky, it’s going to come from the people fighting for it. And with that, I know I got to let you all go. I’ve kept you longer than I said I would, so I’m going to shut up and just ask if we could quickly go around the table one more time, and if you all had any final messages that you wanted to share with listeners about how the stuff that you’re hearing and seeing on the ground compares to what maybe people are hearing in the media about these elections? Or if you had any final thoughts on what it means to you as union members or as folks working with the UNITE HERE union, what that fight for democracy means to you as a working person in this country and as a union member? And anything, also, that you want to say to listeners about what they can do to help.
Maggie Acosta: As a worker, I feel and I see that this country is being run by a corporation. This state is being run like that. There’s a boss and all the workers have to listen to the boss and do what the boss says, and it shouldn’t be that way. When UNITE HERE Local 11 came into my job and organized us, that’s the way we should be doing out in the community. It’s like having people, educating them on when we get out and vote, what we’re voting for. It’s to make a big change in our communities, in our lives, not having some other people decide for us, but us deciding for ourselves.
I really want to say that people should come here to Arizona and help us out. This state is at stake, it’s having all our rights being in danger. We need a lot of people to keep knocking on those doors and keep informing the voters that their rights are in danger. I really believe that workers united can make a difference, and that’s what we’re doing, workers in the community talking to these people. This is the way it works, we go one-on-one, face-to-face, and that’s the way we’re going to make the change.
Bryan Villarreal-Vasquez: What I want people to know, wherever you are, wherever you’re listening, get involved with what’s going on in your local and your state elections. Figure out who these people are and whatnot because, like I said earlier, the state and local ones, they affect you the most in your community. Like here in Nevada, here in Las Vegas, as a union member, being part of the Bartenders Union local 165 and all the other members of the Culinary Workers Union, the 226, we are the ones that you interact with when you come to have your little vacation here in Las Vegas. We work here in all these casinos on the Strip, all the casinos on Fremont, Downtown Las Vegas. If the union wasn’t there, we wouldn’t have been treated like how we should be treated. And because they’re there, we get to work our shifts, work them as efficiently as possible, and with that, when everyone comes to Las Vegas and has a great vacation or a great business trip or whatever. We try to make your guys’ experience the best possible.
Now, going with what’s going on here in Las Vegas with the election, get involved with your local stuff. Every day, we’re always on the ground knocking on doors letting people know what’s going on here, the issues, who we’re supporting. And honestly, to me, knocking on doors is more effective to get to a voter and inform them of what’s going on than what you see on TV, what you hear on the radio, all that stuff. It’s like grassroots 101, you talk to people you see, everyone’s different, everyone has a different story, and when we talk to these voters and hear their stories, we let them know how we can help. And with these candidates that are running for office, Steve Sisolak for governor, Catherine Cortez Masto for Senate, and then all the congressional delegation that’s running here in Las Vegas, these people fight for workers.
And you have members who don’t pay attention to stuff here because, again, they have their lives going on here in Vegas, but it’s very important to get involved in your local elections and see who’s running for office. Because we don’t want the wrong people in office, especially with what happened in 2020, you had all this election integrity, voter integrity going on. We don’t want people to deny people’s rights to vote. Go do your civic duty and vote, because as a democracy here in this country, we’re lucky that we can have a say on who can lead us in each level, from local, state, up to the federal level. So wherever you are hearing this, just go out and vote. Go vote November 8.
Sheila Silver: I’m just going to jump right on in, and I’m going to go back to 2020. When 2020 came about, we won. We took our power, the votes were counted, we went back into our shops, we advocated for our coworkers, we built power in our workplaces. We went back on fire, we were demanding that the industry we covered put our workers first. We were organizing for a living and a fair wage all over the United States, for free healthcare and power for our workers, but now we have to take that same power and we have to fight even harder. We’re at a critical point right now, and we need to even have more commitment than ever before, knowing what’s at stake. This is scary, and how do we fight? We vote. When we vote, we know that we win.
We got to get our workers to come out. We have to let everybody know and everybody that is listening, you can do something in this fight. The most important thing you can do is you can vote. If you have four hours for one day, you might not have six days like some of us, you have four hours, use those four hours. Volunteer at the poll, go knock on some doors. Anybody can call local 274, and you want to volunteer? You can volunteer. It makes a difference and it will change things. Being out there on the canvass knocking at the doors. That’s the only way we’re going to win the election, is for workers to get out on the frontline and fight, and we’re going to fight with our voice, with our vote. We’re going to undergird people that don’t understand. We’re going to listen sincerely. We’re going to tell the people what a difference it makes and take that fight to the Republicans here in Philadelphia to Harrisburg.
We are going to make sure that we do everything and leave everything on the turf that we can get Mastriano out of office, push Shapiro and Fetterman in office, and make sure that Oz goes back to where he belongs in some fairytale land, because we need people that understand what’s necessary, we need union jobs. Union jobs, that’s what’s going to make America great, when we can give people jobs and we can give them healthcare, when we can give them access to mental health, where the woman has a right over her own body. Who are we to make that decision for her? It’s just ridiculous what’s going on. We have families that can’t afford to feed the children that they have. We have to support everyone, and I always do that. We’re going to do that by banding together and not giving up, and knowing still that we’re going to fight all the way until that last polling location closes on November the 8th. We’re going to go to sleep, and then we’re going to wake up and start fighting again.
The transcript of this podcast will be made available as soon as possible.
In this new book, longtime organizers and movement educators Mariame Kaba and Kelly Hayes examine the political lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic and its aftermath, including the convergence of mass protest and mass formations of mutual aid. Let This Radicalize You answers the urgent question: What fuels and sustains activism and organizing when it feels like our worlds are collapsing?
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Maximillian Alvarez is editor-in-chief at the Real News Network and host of the podcast Working People, available at InTheseTimes.com. He is also the author of The Work of Living: Working People Talk About Their Lives and the Year the World Broke.