A packed house of more than 130 SEA/SEIU Local 1984 members and family enthusiastically greeted former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg for a town hall-style event in Concord on Thursday night.
At Thursday’s event, Buttigieg detailed his plan for strengthening unions before facing wide-ranging questions from members.
“The first thing I want to make sure I’ve shared is that I stand with organized labor,” Buttigieg began.
Going back decades, Buttigieg said, the growth in income for most Americans stayed flat while the economic growth of the country went through the roof.
“I don’t think that happened because of some mysterious economic force out there – I think it happened because of policies made in Washington, D.C.,” Buttigieg said. “A lot of those policy decisions amounted to a systematized attack on the right to organize. So you’re seeing unionization decline in most parts of the country, and we need to do something about that. In my opinion, our economy will never truly be a good economy if it isn’t working for all workers.”
Buttigieg continued, outlining his plan to support organized labor before moving on to member questions. He wrote about this in his responses to the Political Education Committee’s questions – you can read more here.
SEA President Rich Gulla led off the questions, noting that New Hampshire’s governor has not been a friend of organized labor and asking what experience Buttigieg had in his home state fighting for workers and standing up to a right-to-work governor.
“Unfortunately, we’ve had this same experience, except imagine if you had a governor that was anti-labor and a Republican supermajority in the House and the Senate that could override just about anything we tried to do,” Buttigieg said, acknowledging the challenge that New Hampshire Democratic legislators faced this session.
“I share your frustration seeing how much good legislation that died with the governor here,” he said.
Jess Wheeler-Russell, an SEA member from the Department of Information Technology, asked Buttigieg how his Medicare for All Who Want It plan would benefit unions in negotiating contracts.
“How would this expanded public option help unions and employers reach an agreement on contracts when it does not remove the cost barriers and also ensure that private insurance will not cherrypick low-risk, low-cost people while dumping people who need more care?” Wheeler-Russell asked.
Buttigieg said he believed the public option would be the preferred option for many, but said the ability to negotiate a separate plan would still be there for unions.
“The virtue is from the labor perspective that you can continue to negotiate but the one we’re going to create is going to be good,” he said.
He acknowledged that many Americans have great plans because unions have negotiated those into place, drawing chuckles from the audience as he noted those plans “sometimes came with trade-offs in terms of wages.”
“That means they’re part of your compensation, and that’s one of the reasons why I don’t believe in a policy to eliminate all of those plans,” he said.
Buttigieg answered numerous other questions, and you can see them all in our video from the event: click here to watch.
This was the first members-only event for presidential candidates by the SEA, as the union moves toward an endorsement in the first-in-the-nation primary. The next event will be held on Friday, November 1 at 11: 45 a.m. with Marianne Williamson. You can find information on an upcoming roundtable discussion with Marianne Williamson here
- Union Leader coverage of Buttigieg meeting with SEA members
- Candidate answers to questions developed by our Political Education Committee