Union members’ votes in the general election may make or break whether Democrats take back control of the House of Representatives, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-9) said at a labor rally in Lincolnshire Saturday morning.
Dozens of organized workers in Illinois’ 10th congressional district met with Schakowsky for a pep talk in support of Democrat candidate Brad Schneider, who’s looking to defeat first-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Bob Dold (R), before they branched off for a door-to-door canvas of fellow union members in the area.
“We cannot win this race, and we can’t save our country, without organized labor,” Schakowsky said at the International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America’s Region 4 office.
Luis Rivas, a letter carrier with the National Association of Letter Carriers and the coordinator of the AFL-CIO Labor to Labor campaign, which educates union members about candidates that support their issues, said there’s “a lot at stake this year” for organized laborers.
“Middle class working families, seniors and women are all under attack by the Tea Party and the Republicans,” Rivas said.
Illinois’ 10th congressional district is one of the most Democratic districts in the country held by a Republican, Schakowsky said.
In 2011, Illinois Democratic lawmakers redrew the district so it would favor more Democrats. The district covers parts of Grayslake, Lake Villa, North Chicago, Waukegan, Zion and other cities.
“There is no reason, if we do our job, that we can’t win this seat,” Schakowsky said, emphasizing how crucial every vote is.
Eleanor Senteney, a Beach Park resident who’s retired and serves as the vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 2107, attended the rally with her granddaughter and said she wanted to hear from the candidates in person and get more ideas for canvasing.
She’s been out twice this election cycle talking with voters door-to-door in Beach Park and Waukegan.
“I do what I can,” Senteney said. “I’m concerned about the middle class. I’m concerned about my great granddaughter and her future, along with the future of all people.”
It’s people like Senteney who Schakowsky and the other candidates said will make an impact in this congressional race.
“Labor brought us the middle class, labor will save the middle class, labor will restore the middle class,” Schakowsky said. “But we have to have the people in Congress to vote our way, your way.”
But despite the turnout for the rally, the rate of union membership throughout the last decade has declined across the U.S., the New York Times reports.
Schneider, a Deerfield businessman, told the crowd that steering the country back in the right direction and restoring the middle class would take teamwork.
“Our message has to be that we have to do this together,” he said. “Our message has to be that this country is going to grow when we grow our middle class and this country works together, not divisively.”
Melinda Bush, the Democratic candidate running for state senate in the 31st district, Chris Kennedy, who’s running for Lake County’s state’s attorney and state Sen. Terry Link (D-30th) were also in attendance.
Bush and Link both stressed Dold’s unsatisfactory voting record to the union members, including Dold’s vote for the “Ryan budget” and other conservative measures.
Here's a look at the slideshow of the event:
The Schneider campaign said in a press release earlier this month that Dold’s record is “out of touch” with the district, including his vote for a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood and a bill that would slash more than half of the funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.
A Washington Post analysis shows Dold, a small business owner and operator, voted mostly with Republicans on key votes.
In the 2010 election, Dold defeated Democratic candidate Daniel Seals by a 51 percent to 49 percent margin. Dold is focused on creating jobs, protecting the environment and keeping the homeland secure, among other issues he mentions on his website.
“We need to make sure that President Obama has people in office who are going to vote for his programs, because frankly, there is a war on the middle class out there,” Bush said.
There are 18 congressional seats up for re-election in Illinois. Other competitive house races include Illinois’ 8th, 11th, 12th, 13th and 17th congressional districts.
The Republicans have control of the House with a 240-191 majority. The leadership changed hands in 2010 from former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
After the rally, two postal workers, Ed Kelly and Terry Rohan, separated from the group and took a 40-minute trip to Lake Villa in the northeastern portion of the district. They talked with more than a dozen union members in a subdivision off of Illinois State Route 83 tucked behind pumpkin farms, cornfields and rolling hills.
Kelly and Rohan passed out Schneider literature and told the union workers who were home, and the people they passed on the street, to check out Dold’s voting record. They stressed that Dold is not in favor of a woman’s right to choose or equal pay for equal work, among other issues.
One union worker on their roster had a large Dold campaign sign in the front yard.
Kelly and Rohan double checked the address on their list, looked at each other apprehensively in the cul-de-sac in front of the home and agreed to skip it.
The majority of the people on the list weren’t home, but at least three union workers said they would vote for Schneider.
The deadline to register to vote in Illinois is October 9.