Opinion: New Year brings big responsibility for voters
Today, America begins a very important year in its existence. Over the next 11 months, voters will decide who they want to lead this country and what they want its future to look like. The process will be tumultuous. But it is a critical decision that will have long-lasting implications for all who call this great nation home.
Our union is taking its role in helping to shape this country’s path forward seriously. It’s why the Teamsters rolled out a plan to get involved early in the 2020 election cycle six months ago and why it’s had members and retirees crisscrossing early primary states as well as general election battleground states all through the summer and fall to get the candidates on the record concerning issues that matter most to working Americans.
But it hasn’t stopped there. Last month in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the Teamsters hosted a presidential forum. There, six leading contenders shared their views with more than 700 Teamster members and retirees as well as a global audience of millions online about pension reform, expanding collective bargaining rights and other top issues that are important for hardworking Americans.
Former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, businessman Tom Steyer and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont all participated in the forum and argued why they would be the best choice for workers to become the nation’s next chief executive.
They also heard from Teamsters about their top issues as well.
One that continues to be of primary concern to hardworking Americans is pensions. Some 1.5 million workers and retirees belong to multiemployer pension plans that are currently endangered. These retirees and families should not have to live with this uncertainty and continue to have their lives turned upside down.
But too many on Capitol Hill — especially Republicans in the Senate — fail to prioritize protecting pensions. The Teamsters were deeply disappointed that Congress did not include the House-passed Rehabilitation for Multiemployer Pensions Act, also known as the Butch Lewis Act, in the final version of the 2020 spending deal approved in December. The legislation aims at financially supporting critical and declining pension plans so they don’t fail. It ensures that retirees and workers receive the benefits they have earned through decades of hard work.
Now is not a time to be overlooking the labor movement. Unions today are enjoying stronger support than they have in almost 50 years. That’s how the Teamsters were finally able to get Congress to end the regressive “Cadillac Tax” on high-quality health plans. There is an understanding by a sizable majority in this country that hardworking Americans deserve retirement security as well as the ability to collectively bargain on the job.
That’s why I’m urging everyone to view sit-down interviews the Teamsters have held with several of those seeking the presidency. Got to www.teamstersvote.com and see candidates in their own words addressing the issues working Americans care about.
And just a reminder — getting educated to elect the best candidates for workers, be it at the local, state or federal level, doesn’t mean much if you don’t vote. Cast a vote in the primary and general elections like your life depends on it!
James Hoffa is president of the Teamsters.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers Acting President Rory Gamble, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.