International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) represents approximately 775,000 active members and retirees who work in a diverse range of fields, from utilities, construction, telecommunications, broadcasting, manufacturing, railroads and government.
Nate Rasmussen, the business manager for IBEW Local 2304 in Madison, Wisconsin, talks about the importance of the upcoming midterm election to workers in our state.
Nate Rasmussen: It seems like we all say that every election is the most important one we’ve ever been part of. This one is definitely critical. We have candidates that are supportive of Labor and others that aren’t, frankly.
Reporter: Is IBEW doing anything right now to get out the vote?
Nate Rasmussen: So, we’re working with AFL-CIO (The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations) who has vetted candidates on labor and endorsed candidates and we’re doing some mailings and some communications with our members. We are also asking our stewards and executive board especially to volunteer their time to get out and talk with other friends of Labor about making sure they’re registered to vote, making sure they’re voting, and making sure they know who is on the ballot who is supporting Labor.
Reporter: What do you see happening if the candidates supported by labor don’t win?
Nate Rasmussen: I go back to what Scott Walker did in the state of Wisconsin here and that’s pretty scary. Governor Evers told us that every budget that he’s introduced has included the repeal of “right to work” in Wisconsin and every budget that he makes as long as he’s Governor will try to repeal “right to work”. We saw the damage that was done to unions and workers under Scott Walker and Act 10 and “right to work” and I don’t want us to go back down that road.
Reporter: What about the senate seat?
Nate Rasmussen: Senator Johnson has been asked by a lot of Labor organizations to come talk and all I hear is that he doesn’t want to meet with labor unions. Oshkosh truck just got a big contract to build a big fleet, right, with the USPS and then sent that work out of state to a non-union facility that has no experience building these trucks and we could be building them right here in Wisconsin.
That’s, frankly, what the contract was for–to build them UAW (United Auto Workers) in the state here. The UAW reached out to Senator Johnson and he made the infamous comment that “we already have enough jobs in Wisconsin.” So, he wasn’t going to go to bat for those union workers there. On the flipside, President Biden was here on Labor Day. Governor Evers was in Milwaukee; people were asking ‘where was Mandela Barnes?’ Well, he was out in Racine helping striking workers on the picket line that day. He said, “this is where I belong, I belong with workers and union members.” Those few things alone show where the two candidates stand on working families.
Reporter: People are concerned about their pocketbooks and bottom line issues. What is the union doing to support candidates who care about that for workers?
Nate Rasmussen: The power to have a voice in your workplace and collectively raise wages of working people is through a Union. The way to have a strong union is to elect candidates who are going to support workers rights and who are going to appoint people to important positions like the NLRB (National Labor Relations Board), who are going to be friends of Labor, is an important part of moving the labor movement forward having collective strength and being able to have power at the bargaining table to take our fair share of profits that these corporations are taking in.
Reporter: How can listeners get involved in getting out the vote?
Nate Rasmussen: The Southcentral Federation of Labor would be a good contact. They’re doing a lot of work down at the Labor Temple, 1602 South Park Street, and you could stop by there basically 7 days a week. They’re running canvassing out of there, they’re doing phone banking. People can do that stuff from home, they can do it in their neighborhood. A lot of this stuff is Union member to Union member: you can talk about the topics that are important to you and to the people you’re talking to.
So, I’ve done it and it’s empowering and it really does make a difference. I actually did a little bit of canvassing last week and I talked to a bunch of people who were like “I’ve been wanting to vote, I didn’t know how to sign up to vote, I didn’t know how to get an absentee ballot.” Well, here it is–it’s right here, and, you know, the more people that vote, the more democracy works.