In Solidarity with Workers


There was some controversy this year about the endorsement process. While that discussion might be worthwhile, I’ve been thinking lately more about endorsements and what they mean for a campaign. As candidates we all seek endorsements from various groups and institutions, but it occured me there are two strategies that candidates take when it comes to endorsements. There are candidates who work at earning every endorsement available because for them, the number of endorsements is important. The other strategy is less ambitious and is about affirming a certain affinity or relationship to an organization based upon similar goals.

My opponents have been endorsed by lots of influential people in our town and for the most part this is a positive and rather unordinary thing. But I had to pause a few weeks ago when I saw that one of my opponents had been endorsed by two particular organizations, two that seem to me are diametrically opposed to each other: The Redlands Chamber of Commerce and Teamsters 1932. Both are notable endorsements and both important to Redlands.

Early in my campaign, myself along with other candidates, were invited to meet with the Redlands Chamber of Commerce. It was my first time interacting with the Chamber, and while I wasn’t seeking their endorsement, I thought it would be a good opportunity to meet with the panel organizing the meeting to learn about what they do. They asked me various questions about my thoughts on business in Redlands and some questions about the budget. We chatted further and at some point during this discussion, I mentioned that my father was recently on disability and talked about the challenges he was facing.

Later on in the meeting I finally had the opportunity to ask the committee to describe what they thought was one of their biggest accomplishments. The faces of one member lit up as she explained to me how they defended business owners from lawsuits that were charged against them after they had violated ADA guidelines. They openingly acknowledged that the businesses had violated ADA law, but felt these things were too trivial to be sued over. I was astounded that the group would point to this particular “win” soon after I had told them about my father. I left feeling highly skeptical of the positive role in the city that they claim. They made me feel uneasy. Here we had a league of business owners organized to lobby for the needs and desires of the businesses while overlooking the needs of our townspeople.

You’ll notice quickly in local campaigns how often candidates declare that they support local small businesses. We all enjoy shopping locally and understand the role of business in the city’s revenue. Because of this, I support local local businesses but with one important caveat. Local businesses must provide a living wage for their workers and the well being of the residents their businesses effect. To me this means that their workers should at least be paid enough so they can afford to live in Redlands. But that is just the minimum we should hold small businesses accountable for. That’s why I encourage unionization and want to incentivize worker-owned cooperative businesses in Redlands. We can call for more jobs but if workers aren’t getting paid a living wage, what are we even doing? A recent NYT article described this situation nicely, stressing the need for unions to represent workers.

Unions, historically have been so important for the Inland Empire. I know that Teamsters and other unions would like to see this tradition continue. We need to encourage unionization and and as a city support the workers who make Redlands what it is. This pursuit won’t be easy, there is a fundamental conflict between employers and employees. The employer’s job is to maximize profits, to extract as much labor from their workers while paying the least amount possible. The worker of course wants to make the highest wage possible.

When I say that I want to to side with workers in Redlands, I really do mean that I take a side. Unions work to make deals with employers that impact the wages, benefits and working conditions of the workers they represent --- They are always at odds with employers. We need candidates on the City Council who stand up for the workers of Redlands rather than catering to the desires of the business community. As a worker and city council member, I will make sure that the city addresses the needs of the everyday man and woman. I will side with residents who demand that their community is more environmentally just and against businesses who put their profits before the well being of our residents and workforce.

It should raise a few eyebrows when a candidate is endorsed by both sides of the conflict. What does this mean? Do both endorsements cancel each other out?

Eric Whedbee