October 11, 2012
One of the common complaints surrounding this year’s Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, is his vast wealth and the disconnect it creates between him and every day Americans who struggle to make ends meet. Although Romney is ridiculously wealthy, and has come to symbolize the skyrocketing economic inequality in our country, extreme wealth is certainly not a new phenomenon when it comes to elected officials. Many members of Congress share in this excessive wealth, and simply don’t understand the experiences of average Americans.
It may seem like this is a trend that has become the norm, but there are ways to solve this dilemma. In a report by American Rights at Work, data shows that unions everywhere are now encouraging members to run for elected offices. This means that everyday people, like food service workers, health workers, firefighters and police are now getting involved with politics on the local, state, and sometimes federal levels. Recently, UFCW member and former Fry’s Food Pharmacy Tech Jonathan Larkin became an Arizona State Representative-Elect, and plans to enact policies that will benefit workers in our country.
The report also shows that when members of Congress held jobs like nurse, teacher, and police officer before entering office, they were more likely to take pro-worker positions such as protecting Social Security, enacting stronger workplace safety and discrimination protections, and reforming the financial industry.
A case study from the report cites Maggie Carlton, a member of the Culinary Workers Union, as an example: Carlton is a 14-year Culinary Workers member who worked as a waitress at the Treasure Island casino while successfully running for and then serving in public office. Her shop floor experiences as a union member influenced her path to political candidacy. While waitressing in the casino’s coffee shop, Carlton served as a bargaining team member, shop steward, and volunteer on the union’s organizing and political campaigns. She participated in negotiations for three collective bargaining agreements, sitting across the table from the country’s top gaming executives.
When elected to office, these are the types of officials who are more likely to support workers’ rights and promote programs and legislation that will benefit the middle class, because they have lived the lives of average Americans! To see more data and case studies of workers running for office and working for the rights of the middle class, read the ARAW report here.