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Jahana Hayes joins IAM on the picket line at United Technologies Aerospace Systems in Cheshire

Ladies of Labor: From the Union Hall to the House Floor

A record number of women are running for office in 2018 and many are union members

Kris LaGrange's picture
Sep 18, 2018

2018 has been called the “Year of the Woman.” In the wake of the Trump election and the “Me Too,” movement women have stepped up in record numbers to run for office and take back our country. As part of this female union members and organizers are running for office in record numbers.

Some of the union women running this year include Nevada’s Jacky Rosen, Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, Minnesota’s Julie Blaha, Connecticut’s Julie Kushner, and Oregon’s Val Hoyle. Rosen and Sinema represent two of the Democrats biggest pickup opportunities. The women running also represent some historic firsts. Minnesota’s Ilhan Omar, a former AFSCME member, is the first Somali-American legislator and if elected will be the first Muslim woman elected to Congress. Yvanna Cancela, the Culinary Workers Union’s former Political Director, became the first Latina to serve in the Nevada State Senate when she was appointed to the seat in 2016 and is now running for re-election. In Connecticut Jahana Hayes, a National Education Association and American Federation of School Administrators member and 2016 National Teacher of the Year won a tough primary election in the state’s 5th Congressional District.

In 2018, many unions have also prioritized having members run for office. The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers produced the following video about the importance of having union members in the halls of government.


"The AFL-CIO has really prioritized union members being primed and ready to go to take on this moment because there's something in the air,” said Liz Schuler, Secretary-Treasurer of the AFL-CIO. “People are ready to rise up, and there's a moment of collective action unlike we've seen...So, how do we capitalize on that? And how do we make the change that we need with policies and our economy? Well, it's to elect union members to office. They're the perfect candidates because they have a lived experience that they can bring to the table. Especially women, we're seeing in bigger numbers than ever before running for all levels of government."


With the primaries now over, 390 women will be on the ballot for Congressional seats and 49 will be running for Senate. At the state level, an amazing 63% of State Senate seats and 71% of Assembly seats will have a woman on the ballot. With so many women running for office important issues that are often overlooked by male Representatives may soon be taken up in Congress, like new rules on sexual harassment, paid family leave, and more. Often times these issues are not taken up by men since they don’t "affect" men. A great example of change coming to these elections happened this year when Liuba Grechen Shirley, a young mom who is running for Congress against longtime Congressman Peter King, fought to get the FEC to approve childcare expenses as a campaign expense. Liuba has received endorsements from the CWA, IBEW, UAW, IAM, SEIU, and AFT.

Even if just a fraction of these candidates win in November, the halls of Congress and State Houses across the country will look much different in 2019. As the midterms draw closer, we do know one thing, union women are taking on some of the toughest fights in the country and are not backing down.

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