On Friday, July 27th, busses filled with people from all over the state poured into Mooney Grove Park to kickoff the Service Employees International Union’s (SEIU) Coalition to help elect progressive candidates to office.
SEIU Local 2015, a care-provider union, partnered with the Central Labor Council (CLC), which is essentially “a union of unions” as CLC representative Santos Garcia described it.
The CLC was chartered by the AFL-CIO through the California Labor Federation which helps foster union consolidation throughout the state.
The event was posted to begin at 10:30am, but was already brimming with union members a half-hour before.
People took pictures with signs reading “Immigrant Justice,” “Justicia Restaurativa” (Restorative Justice), and “Economic & Worker Justice.”
During this pre-event time, candidates and coalition organizers milled about, talking to people.
Soon before the speakers took the stage, interpreters flipped on their microphone packs and began translating.
SEIU interprets the largely English presentation into seven other languages; namely, Spanish, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Vietnamese, Armenian, and Russian, and sometimes an eighth language, Hmong.
Soon, the two ladies playing the role of MC took the stage. They introduced Arnuflo De La Cruz, the SEIU Officer representing the local region.
He spoke on why this coalition is important for union workers and laid out the work that needs to be done to see their goal of electing labor-friendly candidates to office.
After he left the stage, Eddie Valero, the recently elected Tulare County Supervisor for District 4, spoke emphatically about the need for support and encouragement for working families.
He reminded the audience of his background as a child of Orosi and his Ivy League education as well as his commitment to laborers in the county.
“I will be there walking in your shoes,” promised Valero. “There has never been a more important time to elect supporters of working families than now.”
A former postman, Santos Garcia, spoke next. As mentioned previously, he now works for the CLC and he might soon be on the City Council of Madera.
It was at this event, amidst stories of union workers losing jobs and winning lawsuits, that he announced his campaign.
“An injustice to one is an injustice to all!” he proclaimed over the cheering crowd.
Jose Sigala echoed his fellow speakers’ sentiment in his own speech.
He is running for Assembly District 26, which encompasses everything from Orosi and Dinuba to just past Porterville.
It also includes much of the mountainous area in the southeast Central Valley.
“This is not an area that typically supports a Democrat—a labor friendly candidate—but times are changing,” Sigala said, talking about the alleged blue wave, or in this case, if the color of the SEIU shirts are to be any indicator, a purple wave.
Throughout the speeches, in-home nurses and care providers burst into chants of “Together? We rise!”, “Whose union? Our union!” and “¿Se puede? ¡Si, se puede!”
This is a small glimpse into the effort these workers are willing to invest in the success of these candidates.
In a recent newsletter, found on their website, SEIU was able to boast 20,000 volunteer hours for the 2018 primaries alone.
They attributed their mass volunteer base to the success of 98% of the candidates they endorsed.
Right before the kickoff, Garcia stated that SEIU is non-partisan, but that they instead focus on policies. During his speech however, he described a stereotypical liberal progressive/left-wing moderate candidate.
Though later, at the SEIU dinner held that night at the Visalia Convention Center, he named a few Republican candidates the union had endorsed and doubled-down on the organization’s non-partisan stance.
So, what does this all mean for November?
In a post-Janus vs. AFSCME America, it will be more difficult for unions to collect members.
SEIU is a public-sector union which means that it will subsequently be affected by the landmark Supreme Court case, before which unions were allowed to collect union dues from workers, even if they aren’t members of the union.
On the other hand, the Janus case may not affect SEIU Local 2015, one of the largest local chapters in SEIU according to Influencewatch.org, as heartily as it could some of the other public-sector unions. California is blue, after all, so most members would probably renew membership.
Regardless, if the union can hold itself together and keep morale up (and rising, if possible), the implications for November would be huge.
The state, and even this deep-red county could see a flip.