Dallas Labor Takes an Election Night Tour

On election evening 2018, more than 50 union activists gathered at the Communications Workers hall. A lot of us were tired from campaigning all day for labor’s candidates. We weren’t going to an “election watch” party to watch the results, we were going to several of them!

unionists on the bus

Dallas AFL-CIO leader Mark York had arranged a 55-passenger bus to carry us around. There were two basic reasons: one was to remind candidates that union people had worked for them; the other was to have a great time. We accomplished both.

I flipped my phone to “Facebook live” to make videos of the evening’s events.

Mark York began by instructing us to have fun. After months of hard work, he said we deserved it.

We boarded and went east to visit one of labor’s favorite candidates, State Representative Victoria Neave. In the 2016 election, she had very narrowly won against a tough Republican opponent. Her party was at the Fireman’s union hall. As we approached the doorway, we burst into lusty singing, “Solidarity Forever, Solidarity Forever, The Union Makes Us Strong!” The partygoers inside loved it, and they loved us!

We stayed just long enough to tear into their Mexican food buffet, then we headed for the election-watch party of County Judge Clay Jenkins at a downtown hotel. Again, we made a loud and boisterous singing entrance, but the joke was on us! People standing around the hotel bar just looked quizzically at us. Who were we? Why were we singing?

Judge Jenkins’ party, it turned out, was on the sixth floor! So we made lined up for elevators in small groups and made a much more subdued entrance. Judge Jenkins personally gave us each a free drink card. He was winning his re-election by a wide margin. Jenkins was ebullient, because he could see his friends winning.

At the next stop, we resumed our dramatic entrance. Congressional candidate Colin Allred had a really big ballroom and hundreds of enthusiastic supporters who yelled and clapped as we paraded in. Lots of high-fives and hugging! 

Newspersons on the big TV were just beginning to declare winners and losers of the 2018 mid-terms. The people standing closest would yell every few minutes, then hundreds of the rest of us would ask the closest person “What happened?”

The results were coming in for Dallas County, where anti-worker candidates were taking a real whupping. Broader results from all over Texas, we found out later, were not as good. Dallas excelled!

Just as Mark grabbed his big union sign to hurry us back to the bus, the loudest yell of the evening went up. The ones of us who weren’t blocking the view to the TV repeated “What happened?”

Colin Allred had been declared the winner in Congressional District 32, where powerful Republican Pete Sessions had seemed unassailable! It was a sweet moment for everybody, but maybe especially for me, because I’ve been picketing Sessions and campaigning against him every election for decades!

Schedules being schedules, we had to hurry back to the bus, but we didn’t miss our chance to hear the victorious candidate because he walked out to our bus to thank the unionists even before he delivered his victory speech at the party!

Off we went to our final rendezvous, the Democratic Party’s watch party at the Reunion Hotel. This was the biggest one, and they greeted our singing group with the same enthusiasm as all others.

Judge Cruzeot greeted Mark York with a hug

Results were coming in quickly by then. Judge Cruezot had been declared the winner in the critical Dallas District Attorney’s race. He gave Mark a giant bear hug, then posed with bunches of us for photos. Another of labor’s favorites, Judge Molberg, told us that he thought he was winning and that “we might have flipped the whole court in one night!” He was referring to Texas’ Fifth Court of Appeals, and he turned out to be right!

Judge Mohlberg a winner

On the bus and at the parties, we compared notes with other election campaigners. The number of unions participating was gratifying. Most of them threw their entire effort into cooperation with the labor federation, but some of them had also carried out actions of their own. The idea that unions finance major campaigns is pretty much bologna; what we do is get-out-the-vote with boots on the ground. We’re good at it, and everybody, especially worker-friendly candidates, appreciates it.

At the last party we attended, we confirmed that worker-friendly candidates had wrested at least five North Texas House seats from Republicans. The total Texas House Seats switched turned out to be eleven!

We were especially pleased to note that both of the worst anti-worker North Texas State Senators, who were especially targeted by the Texas AFL-CIO, had lost to labor-friendly newcomers! Winners Beverly Powell in Fort Worth and Nathan Johnson in Dallas County had been boosted by North Texas unionists.

Around 11 PM, we started for home. The next day, we learned these things from national AFL-CIO:

  • 1,400-plus union members ran for office in 2018. At least 743 of them won offices, including to the U.S. Senate and to state governorships. One of the Republican governors displaced was the despised anti-worker governor of Wisconsin.
  • Union members had knocked on more than 2.3 million doors during the election. We delivered 5 million fliers at more than 4,600 worksites. We sent out 260,000 texts and over 12 million pieces of mail. They didn’t even know how many million phone calls we made.
  • More than 100 women were elected to Congress in 2018!
  • Democrats had taken back the House of Representatives