Today is Election Day, with enormous consequences for working people nationwide as the fates of the House, Senate, governorships, and state legislatures around the country hang in the balance. Many critical races remain too close to predict. Federal law does not require employers to allow their employees time off to vote, but most states provide at least some protection for workers who want to leave work to engage in their civic duty.
Unions have been engaging in voter turnout operations in key states.In Nevada, where UNITE HERE played an enormous role in electing Democrats in 2016, the Culinary Union has registered more than 10,000 new voters among their membership and their families. In some cases, the union has given hospitality workers paid leave to canvas for candidates including Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, running to unseat Republican incumbent Sen. Dean Heller. Around one-quarter of SEIU members in North Carolina, Iowa, Tennessee, Nevada, and Texas have voted early, and of those members 31% didn’t vote in the 2014 midterms. And in Pennsylvania, AFT, CWA, and UNITE HERE have devised new strategies including “political activist boot camps” to mobilize their members to canvass, phone bank, and vote in the midterms.
CNN documented the widening gulf between the 39% of the U.S. population who live in a community with a $7.25 minimum wage—and the 61% who live in states and municipalities that have raised their wage floor. Lydia DePillis of CNNMoney commented that minimum wages are just one example of how the “rise of federalism in the face of Congressional gridlock means that quality of life in liberal and conservative states diverges further and further.”
Following last Thursday’s Google walkout, Noah Feldman wrote in Bloomberg that tech workers are engaging in a “new kind of worker activism.” The walkout by workers to protest parent company Alphabet Inc.’s golden parachutes for executives accused of sexual misconduct “may be a harbinger of something new in employer-employee relations: empowered workers’ moral-political protest directed as much against the general culture as against management.” Indeed, he wrote, it’s part of a growing trend among tech workers to petition their employers to end policies in contravention of shared values.