Building on the 2018 Midterms

The so-called “blue wave” that swept many Democrats and Progressives into office on November 6 contained a less-noticed labor wave. Not only were many of the successful candidates, who frequently washed away reactionary incumbents supported by the Labor Movement, but many were actually current or former union members.

This is an accomplishment on which to build. This election provides a model for the next election, a presidential election featuring a load of Republican Senate seats that can be flipped by candidates who support workers’ rights.

With more than 800 Labor-backed candidates winning in 2018, we expect policy changes at many levels of government. So do the voters, union and general public alike. All across the country, healthcare was a major, possibly determinative issue.

Healthcare is a concern for Americans in many ways: access and affordability being foremost. Those politicians who opposed protecting us against discrimination based on pre-existing conditions frequently and fortunately paid the price at the ballot box this year.

Labor has other matters to press. Perhaps first should be the end to voter suppression, especially affecting minorities, because progressive politics would have been even more successful if all eligible voters had been able to vote.

Moving on to a legislative agenda, the issues of protecting and expanding Medicare and Medicaid are crucial. Defending Social Security from right-wingers who want to roll back FDR’s New Deal is another imperative. Protecting prevailing wage laws is one more critical initiative.

Our allies should press for infrastructure funding and for legislation to address climate change, the harmful effects of which are now visible as fires and floods across the United States.

The 2018 election was a re-start. Let’s make use of it and keep the momentum. ■

Jesus Hernandez | RWDSU L-1S Shop Steward/ Floor Secretary Macy’s Herald Square

Jesus Hernandez | RWDSU L-1S Shop Steward/ Floor Secretary Macy’s Herald Square

I have been an associate at Macy’s in Herald Square for going on eight years now. I started out in the Bedding Department on the 6th floor and was later promoted to the Home and Electric Department on the 8th floor. Macy’s Herald Square is the flagship of the Macy’s department store chain; it is located in Herald Square in Manhattan, NY. The store covers an entire city block, with more than two million square feet of retail space, it’s one of the largest stores in the world. My union, RWDSU Local 1-S represents nearly 4,000 active employees in Herald Square and at the Queens, Parkchester and White Plains Stores.

I have been a Shop Steward for about  four years, helping the employees on my floor when they have issues with everything from scheduling to handling conflicts on the floor. I’ve worked non-union before. What I have found in a unionized store is that we have a voice on the job. In a busy department store like Macy’s, there are a lot of misunderstandings and disagreements. But, because of the union, workers know they are protected against unreasonable customer complaints. I’ve helped fellow members understand that they don’t have to tolerate abusive treatment to keep their jobs, because the union has their back. One of the main issues I see as a steward is scheduling. We have provisions in our contract with Macy’s that requires fair and set scheduling, but we see management violate that a lot. When that happens, we file a grievance on behalf of the employee. RWDSU Local 1-S has negotiated a fair contract, it is up to me and the other shop stewards to help enforce it. Our contract has required Macy’s to provide paid sick leave since before it was mandatory in New York State. I’ve seen Macy’s management try to avoid allowing employees to take their leave. And, I’ve been able to help those employees file grievances so they can receive the time off they are entitled to.

Being a union shop steward, for me, is like standing up to the classroom bully. I get to let them know that we won’t tolerate that kind of behavior. I like my job, and I like being able to help customers who come in to the store, but it makes me feel great to be able to help my coworkers.■

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