After key pro-labor candidates lost in midterm elections, union workers have to find new allies for their causes.
Unions are growing across the country. The economic hardship and labor instability brought on by the pandemic, as well as President Joe Biden’s support for unions, are encouraging workers to fight for their rights.
In Florida, workers from different areas are trying to get better working conditions, salaries, and benefits.
RELATED: Biden Signs Bill to Block Rail Strike to Protect Economy; Senate Voted Down Effort to Give Rail Workers Paid Sick Days
For example, SEIU is one of the state’s largest unions, representing over 80,000 diverse professionals and essential workers statewide, who provide services in hospitals, nursing homes, public schools, community colleges, universities, municipal and county governments, and airports.
In 2023, SEIU will focus on finding support from officials for issues affecting the workers it represents.
The union had endorsed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and US Senate candidate Val Demmings, who both lost in the elections.
Vicki González, vice president of Local 191, said that these candidates were committed to addressing worker issues such as wages, housing, working conditions, and health care, among others.
“We work with our community to reach out to elected officials locally, statewide, and federally to help our community. We know that people in our communities that are Black and Brown have less access to health care,” González told Floricua.
SEIU had a good turnout at the midterm elections because 72% of its members voted. González said usually only 50 to 60% vote in the elections.
Although the union has allies on both sides of the aisle, progressive candidates tend to give the most support to workers.
And this year, even though Republicans underperformed across most of the country, Florida is a different story. For example, Miami-Dade County, which is 70% Hispanic, turned red for the first time in 20 years.
“I think we need to focus on registering and educating more Hispanic voters. Because the Central and South American communities always migrated here to South Florida, but they were always of the liberal mindset and were registered Democrats and pretty much voted for our candidates and our issues. We have found all the misinformation out there and actually swam in the opposite direction,” González said.
Florida has become unaffordable for many residents. In some areas, rent alone has increased by 30% in the last year.
“Our workers earn a little bit more than probably most within our system, Jackson Health System. We have nurses, doctors […] Within Jackson Health System, the other union that represents the environmental workers, and nutrition workers, those people don’t earn that much money and they’re struggling. Everybody is struggling here, even the higher-paid workers. I can only imagine the level of the lower paid workers, what their struggles are,” González said.
The vice president also said it is important that workers voice their worth and that it took a worldwide pandemic for many industries to pay a fairer salary.
“You drive by a McDonalds, and within the past six to 12 months they offer fair wages, offer benefits. Target, Starbucks, and all these big bucks companies. Our parent union has been asking for $15 as minimum wage for probably the last five to six years. By the time we achieve that, $15 is not enough,” González said.