This piece was written by Pennsylvania AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Frank Snyder
As 2018 draws to a close, so does another electoral season. It was literally a year ago, when we introduced our first draft of the most comprehensive union member-to-member (M2M) program in a decade. Upon presenting the outline to our Affiliate and Central Body Leaders, gathering input from key staff, members, and even conducting a successful “test run” if you will, in the March 13 Special Election in which Conor Lamb defeated Rick Saccone to fill the unexpired term of disgraced Congressman Tim Murphy. Earlier this year, no one gave the political newcomer a chance over a seasoned, well-funded politician who was no friend of organized labor – other than organized labor. You propelled Conor Lamb to victory, as all of America watched unions systematically and strategically chisel away the District’s 20-point margin of victory Trump had held.
There could be no denying what was at stake in Pennsylvania for organized labor – everything. And that’s exactly the approach that unions who participated in this epic showdown took. Returning to a mantra your State Federation never wavered from, proved that when union members talk to other union members about the issues that most directly impact them via personal contact at members’ homes, over the telephone, through local union mail, social media and workplace interaction, you are virtually an unstoppable force.
Candidates endorsed by your PA AFL-CIO, both Democratic and Republican, State and Federal, enjoyed success because of our persuasion M2M Program, arguably, dating back to 2015 when your hard work enabled three of the most qualified judicial candidates in memory, to be elected to the Supreme Court. As you will recall, in January of 2018, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a ruling that the Gerrymander of the Congressional Districts in Pennsylvania was so severe that it violated the State Constitution. After the Legislature failed to produce a new Congressional map, the Supreme Court unveiled their own, which completely changed the dynamic for the 2018 elections, with much fairer Districts. Remember – All Elections Have Consequences! 2015’s results proved to be beneficial consequences.
At a Glance
The improved map, along with outstanding candidates, shifted the US House to 9 Republicans – 9 Democrats, from 13 R – 5 D. Ten successful candidates were endorsed by the PA AFL-CIO.
In the State Senate, you helped close the veto-proof Republican majority from 34-R to 16-D, to 29-R to 21-D. The political balance of the State House followed a similar trajectory, with Democrats netting 11 seats, shrinking the previous 121-82 Republican majority to 110-93.
At the top of the ticket, Governor Tom Wolf and Senator Bob Casey Jr. cruised to double-digit re-elections in a state Trump and Toomey won two years ago. Your successes will likely galvanize our enemies, who see their margins shrinking, and could compel them to more aggressively seek to eliminate organized labor once and for all. Which is exactly why our work never stops on Election Day, as we must continue to defend and promote a pro-union, and pro-worker agenda, every day.
To nearly cliché-like ad nauseam, we always stressed the need for our members to turnout. Accordingly, voter turnout for the midterm elections in Pennsylvania was so high this year that it approached presidential election numbers, with 58.4 percent of registered voters in the Keystone State casting their ballot November 6. Our internal study has Union members making up a remarkable 25% of the electorate; remarkable, but not surprising when you “plan the work, and work the plan.”
Plan the Work, Work the Plan
Your Pennsylvania AFL-CIO made a number of hypotheses several months ago based on factual trends and extensive research, provided our members would execute a M2M Program based on aggressive Field Mobilization and smart, District-specific messaging, comparing candidates and how their ideologies and records would impact Unions. We targeted races in a pragmatic manner, considering the candidate, resources, capacity, union density and demographic trends. Western Pennsylvania, and particularly southwestern Pennsylvania, has been losing population, aging faster than the rest of the state, and has not experienced the increasing population diversity that is shaping the eastern half of Pennsylvania. As a result, voters in the central and western parts of the state have not only been electing more Republicans but have been electing more extremely conservative and anti-union Republicans. Meanwhile, the “collar counties” surrounding Philadelphia have been rapidly growing, along with the Lehigh Valley, south central Pennsylvania, and some counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. Along with this growth has come an increase in diversity, an increase in Democratic registration, and a change in voting patterns that strongly favors Democratic candidates, hence, the 11 net seats — all came from Philadelphia and Montgomery, Chester, Bucks and Delaware counties. They also gained nine women, the majority from the Southeast. Keep in mind, your PA AFL-CIO is not beholden to any Party. If a candidate is with us, we are with them.
2018 had the third-highest rate of turnover since 1974. In all, 104 members won’t return to the House in January, including members who lost re-election bids, but also people who left for any other reason including retirement. It was a historic year for female candidates — both for those who ran and those who won: 256 women were candidates for the U.S. House or the U.S. Senate in the general election, and as of print time, 114 have won, 4 right here in the Keystone State! Similarly, in the Pennsylvania General Assembly, a new record in terms of female members, with 63 between the House (52) and Senate (11), or a full-quarter of the 253 seats.
We should all take pride in an outstanding Labor 2018 Campaign. However, we have miles to go before we rest, because our enemies will not. We made inroads with successful union-supporting and union-member candidates, but it’s not enough. It is not too soon to consider probably only three key states could decide the 2020 Presidential campaign (MI, PA, WI). Gerrymandering is still a major issue, and we must cast a die electing policy makers determined to make further improvements on the State and Federal maps.
National AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka’s approach to Member Mobilization and Member Engagement, as well as the National’s confidence in effective State and Local Programs, establishes a foundation in which we can build upon our electoral successes that will lead to more legislative and organizing victories across America, further strengthening unions and the communities where they serve.
For a complete listing of 2018 Election results, log on to www.paaflcio.org.