Since the election of Joe Biden two years ago, U.S. elections experts, pundits, and even the IATSE Political/Legislative Department have warned that, historically speaking, the party of the sitting President can expect to fare worse in a midterm election. Since the end of World War II, the average midterm election result for the President’s party is a loss of 26 House seats and 4 Senate seats. In the context of 2022, where the pro-worker Democratic majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate were 5 votes and 1 vote respectively heading into Election Day, that historical trend seemed particularly dire. However, it appears history will not be repeating itself.
In the Senate, the pro-worker Democratic majority was maintained by flipping a seat in Pennsylvania with the election of John Fetterman and could potentially expand to 51 seats if Senator Rev. Raphael Warnock prevails in Georgia’s runoff election on December 6th. In the House, strong defensive campaigns and a few longshot victories by pro-worker candidates upset Republican expectations of picking up 25-40 seats. House control remained too close to call a week after Election Day. On November 16th, Republicans officially won control of the House with 218 seats, but their majority is likely to be an incredibly narrow 2-5 seats, as they are set to pick up 7-10 seats total when the final votes are tallied.
Before detailing the specifics of IATSE’s political program for the 2022 elections, it’s important to understand why Democrats are on track to experience the best midterm performance by the party of the sitting President in the last 40 years.
First and foremost, women’s reproductive rights were a huge motivator for voters. As reported by Politico, “a surge in turnout among people motivated by the erosion of abortion rights carried Democrats to victory in races for governor, Senate, attorney general and state legislatures — defying predictions that the issue had faded for voters in the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.” In addition to the success experienced by pro-choice candidates on an individual level, access to abortion and reproductive healthcare rights were affirmed in all 5 states where the issue was on the ballot (CA, KY, MI, VT, MT). According to exit polls, 60 percent of voters said they were dissatisfied or angry with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and these sentiments certainly came to bear when results began to roll in on election night.
Additionally, support for America’s democracy and the youth vote both proved significant factors in final vote tallies. By and large, voters rejected extreme Republican candidates who made the “Big Lie” and refusing to accept the results of the 2020 election central to their campaigns. Our electoral system has been reinforced by the American people rejecting MAGA candidates. Moreover, 27% of young people, ages 18-29, turned out to vote in the 2022 midterm elections. That’s the second-highest youth turnout rate for a midterm election in the past 30 years.
Finally, IATSE kin and union members turned out to vote and made the difference in multiple key races and ballot measures across the country –
- MI: Union voters gave Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer an estimated net 210,000 votes, roughly half of the vote margin.
- PA: Union voters gave Gov.-elect Josh Shapiro an estimated net 185,000 votes, providing ~28% of the vote margin. In the Senate race, union voters are similarly responsible for ~26% of the margin.
- WI: Union voters gave Democratic Gov. Tony Evers an estimated net 40,000 votes, roughly half of the vote margin.
- IL: Voters enshrined collective bargaining rights into the state constitution. The Workers’ Rights Amendment guarantees an employee’s right to unionize and bargain collectively and prevents the passage of any “right-to-work” legislation.
- Nationally, union members made up an estimated 11% of the electorate, and total union households 18%.
While votes are still being counted and various races remain to be finalized, IATSE THANKS YOU for making your voices heard, defying history, and continuing the fight for a better future for working people.
IATSE 2022 Political Program
In the 2022 election cycle, the Political/Legislative Department developed and deployed innovative new ways to reach members across IATSE locals, big and small. By engaging our corps of local union political coordinators, we sought to educate members on the legislative progress we’ve made over the last two years, define the stakes of the 2022 elections, and grow our union’s collective political activism by continuing to support and build IATSE local political programs.
This year the Political/Legislative Department hosted six training webinars and forums for IATSE local officers and political coordinators that focused on the foundational elements of successful local union political programs. The series included:
- IATSE Political Coordinator 101
- IATSE PAC: Join the Fight! (available to all IATSE members)
- Local Union Political Endorsements
- Using Action Network in your Local Political Program
- Local Union Voter Registration Programs
- Why Do We Care About the Midterm Elections (available to all IATSE members)
With topics ranging from the role of a political coordinator and basic structure of a local political program to the ramifications of the 2022 midterm elections for IATSE workers and their families, the forums provided a space for the Political/Legislative Department and IATSE locals to answer questions and share best practices with one another. These open discussions helped make IATSE political and legislative advocacy resources more accessible to members and identified for the International where local unions may need more support in their political endeavors.
New resources the Political/Legislative Department rolled out as part of the International’s 2022 political program included: the 2022 IATSE Federal Issue Agenda, a documentsummarizing the IATSE’s primary federal policy priorities; How to Establish a Local Union Candidate Endorsement Process, a step-by-step guide with suggestions for locals on how to set up an endorsement process and act as validators for pro-worker candidates running in their area; the IATSE Political Endorsement Tracker, a simple online form that allows IATSE affiliated locals to inform the International of federal and statewide candidates they’ve endorsed; IATSE – The Union Behind Entertainment & Political Campaigns, a one-page document seeking to educate candidates on the work that is done on political campaigns within IATSE jurisdiction to ensure that their campaigns utilize union labor in every aspect if they intend to run as a “pro-worker” candidate; and finally, as reported in the last IATSE Official Bulletin (2022 Q3 / No. 677), the IATSE Voter Toolkit, which is a webpage providing U.S. members all the resources they need, in one place, to cast their ballots and ensure their vote is counted.
To kick off our voter registration campaign this fall, the International rolled out short videos on our social media channels from the Political/Legislative Department, Women’s Committee, Green Committee, Pride Committee, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee highlighting what was at stake in the 2022 midterm elections and urging IATSE members to register and make a plan to vote.
The International undertook an expansive direct mail program to communicate with members in 9 battleground states (AZ, GA, MI, MN, NC, NV, OH, PA, & WI) in the weeks leading up to the election. In total we reached 17,862 members and sent 35,724 pieces of mail focused on voter registration, the legislative victories IATSE achieved over the last two years, the fights still ahead of us, and getting out the vote.
The International also conducted a robust peer-to-peer texting campaign with members residing in battleground states. Prior to the election, IATSE staff communicated one-on-one via text with 13,433 members, received 1,462 responses, and altogether sent 15,547 texts over the course of the program. These texts were focused on encouraging members to register to vote and make a plan to vote with the help of the IATSE Voter Toolkit. The Political/Legislative and Communications Departments also collaborated with regularity to communicate with the U.S. membership about the election via email and social media.
IATSE proudly participated as an affiliate of the AFL-CIO with their annual electoral mobilization program, Labor 2022, and reestablished our partnership with Power the Polls in their efforts to recruit poll workers to ensure a safe, fair election for all voters. All together we brought on 8 IATSE members who worked over 201 days combined as release staff for their respective AFL-CIO state federations and signed up 292 members to serve as poll workers in their local communities, joining local election officials to uphold the democratic process.
In addition to volunteer boots on the ground and votes at the polls, IATSE PAC utilized over $520,000 of invaluable member contributions to support candidates in the 2022 election cycle who stand with workers and support the issues important to IATSE members.
These historical 2022 election results are further proof of what is possible through solidarity and the strength of our collective action! We can all be proud of the role the IATSE played in organizing, investing, and mobilizing in the 2022 election cycle to win a better future for our members.
This is an advance copy of the Political/Legislative article for the 2022 Quarter 4 Official Bulletin.