Unions Operated on All Cylinders in Big Win in Beaumont Mayoral Runoff

Quietly and determinedly, the Central Labor Councils of Texas have been building capacity and rebuilding labor’s ongoing effort to elect candidates who stand for a fair shot for working families to get ahead.

The Sabine Area Central Labor Council put a cherry on top of an excellent local election season by providing decisive support in Mayor-elect Robin Mouton’s 52-48 victory in Saturday’s runoff in Beaumont. An AT&T retiree and member of the Communications Workers of America, Mouton will become the first African-American woman to serve as Mayor of Beaumont.

Turnout was excellent for this type of mid-summer election — actually about 3,000 votes more than the first round of voting in May. And labor pulled out all the stops — a return to our gold-standard, grass-roots, door-knocking campaigns that were temporarily interrupted by the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The CLC not only put in the hard work but was always thinking on its feet. Here’s an amazing example: Jeremy Pavlich of Plumbers Local 68 traveled to the Freedom Ride for voting rights that launched late last week in New Orleans. There, he met Doratha “Dodie" Smith-Simmons one of the original Freedom Riders. In 1961, at the age of 18 and as a member of the Congress of Racial Equality, Smith-Simmons served as a trainer for a contingent leaving New Orleans for Jackson, Mississippi. She suffered through beatings, arrests and jail time for her activism in the struggle for civil rights and voting rights.

Pavlich was excited to meet Smith-Simmons, but he also had presence of mind. Why not ask her to record a message for day-of-election reminder calls? It worked. Smith-Simmons briefly discussed the importance of voting in the Mayor’s race and given the numbers, it seems that while automated calls are not often welcome interruptions, this one may well have made a difference.

Moves like these are like muscle memory; with repeated practice, they make all of us better. Pavlich said a union candidate with proven governing chops on the ballot mattered. “The moment we started canvassing, the numbers responded," he said. "We really proved our political clout.”

Sue Little of the United Steelworkers, another CLC activist who pounded the pavement ahead of the election to the tune of about 1,000 door-knocks, said the “absolutely fabulous” election stemmed from and produced solidarity in the union movement.

“Labor made this election happen,” Little said. “When workers work together, we win.”