Voting 2016: It’s your right and responsibility

Jim Beno
By Jim Beno
IAM District 190
Directing Business Rep

If I haven't heard it from you, I've heard it from other members: "Don't tell me how to vote." Okay, I get it. In this country, no one tells anyone how to vote. It's at the root of our democracy. Our decision is our own.

But we're a political bunch, so we do talk about how we're going to vote. That's another great element of our democracy. You're free to express your opinions, and anyone near you can listen to them, disagree with them or ignore them.

Plenty of our members still have a sticker on their truck saying "No on 32." Thank them sometime. They're part of the reason so many of us are working right now. In 2012, we stood together and defeated this anti-union measure. In killing it, we strengthened our unions. And we did that by convincing enough people—friends, family, some stranger who was driving in back of us on the freeway— to find out about Prop. 32 and vote against it.

The words are simple: "No on 32." It's not an order. It's a spur. We figured once people knew about the substance of this proposition, they'd make up their minds to vote against it. But I didn't order them to do so. I can't order you to vote at all. Our U.S. Constitution protects your right to vote. And it also protects your right to stay home that day.

"Don't get me wrong," you say. "I always vote. I just don't want you to tell me how to vote."

Okay. So now I want to ask you something: How do you decide how to vote?

There are plenty of places to get information. We talk to family, friends or our brothers and sisters on the job. There's Facebook, newspapers, TV and radio, all promoting politics nonstop. Sometimes, an elected official shows up at a union meeting, and can actually tell you what they've done to earn your vote. They're not telling you how to vote. They're asking you to weigh your own interests and use your own mind to make a decision.

Don't use "I don’t have time" as an excuse not to vote.

Registering & Voting is Quick & Easy

Register to vote


By Mail: Get a registration form at any post office or DMV office

Deadline: October 24. Register early to get an Absentee/Vote-by-Mail Ballot if you’re not sure you can get to the polls on time.

Election: Tuesday, November 8, 2016

How about your union? We're working every day to improve the laws that impact your job and benefits. We know which politicians are on our side, and which ones will throw us under the bus. We hope you consult with us as a source of useful information.

Who's on our side?

I just returned from the Machinists Convention in Chicago and, without reservation, we endorsed Hillary Clinton because we strongly believe she will do a better job for our members.

Are we telling you how to vote? No. We're telling you how some of us are going to vote, and why. It's our mission to get work for our members and to promote more jobs in Machine and Manufacturing and in the automotive sector and to ensure that you have good wages, benefits and retirement security.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote. But are you going to tell me you don't want to know which candidate wants you to work for a fair wage and have a pension, and which wants you on the sidelines, earning minimum wage with no benefits or training?

The good wages and benefits that you and your family enjoy were fought for by the members who came before us; the fight continues every day to maintain them. But many of our rights to negotiate these benefits were won through local, state, and national laws getting passed—and that only happens when politicians who understand the needs of workers get elected to office.

The political groups that are trying to undermine our legal right to negotiate good labor contracts are out there backing their own candidates who, if elected, would rescind those laws that protect our right to collectively bargain. Its our job to expose these candidates and ask you to vote against them.

Weigh your own interests, identify the issues that are important to you, and make a decision.

One of the great things about the U.S. is that we are a thriving, living democracy. It's the great privilege of our democracy: the right to make up our own minds.

I'm not going to tell you how to vote, but I hope that you take your job and your rights as a union member into consideration when you mark your ballot.


Recommendations: Ballot Measures

In 2014, California voters passed a ballot measure designed to increase voter participation--the measure stipulated that future statewide ballot measures must be placed on a full even-year election ballot--when voter turnout is the highest. The result is that we have 17 measures on this year's ballot. And you will find a host of city and county measures as well.

The California Labor Federation brought together all of its member unions to look at the candidates and the propositions, and they made recommendations on the propositions that impact us as workers and union members. Because ballot measures can be confusing, we just wanted you to know Labor’s stands on them. (Note: we only list propositions with labor recommendations.)

Proposition 51: YES
School Bonds. Funding for K-12 School, Community College Facilities.

Proposition 52: YES
State Fees on Hospitals. Federal Medi-Cal Matching Funds.

Proposition 53: NO
Revenue Bonds. Statewide Voter Approval. (Cortopassi measure)

Proposition 54: NO
Legislation and Proceedings. (Munger 72-hr Rule)

Proposition 55: YES
Tax Extension to Fund Education and Healthcare (Prop. 30 extension)

Proposition 56: YES
Cigarette Tax to Fund Healthcare, Tobacco Use Prevention, Law Enforcement.

Proposition 57: YES
Criminal Sentences. Juvenile Criminal Sentencing.

Proposition 58: YES
Calif. Education for a Global Economy. (Repeal Prop. 227)

Proposition 59: YES
Campaign Finance: voter instruction. (Citizens United, non-binding)

Proposition 62: YES
Death Penalty. Repeal.

Proposition 66: NO
Death Penalty. Procedures. (Pro-death penalty)

Proposition 67: YES
Referendum to Overturn Ban on Single-Use Plastic Bags.

A Few Key Races Around the State

U.S. Senate: The Machinists join California's unions to endorse Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate. Harris has a detailed policy statement on economic issues, ranging from paid family and sick leave, raising the minimum wage, strengthening social security and medicare, expanding pro-work tax credits, stopping wage theft, providing veterans with what they earned, investing in infrastructure, helping small businesses, start-ups and job creators, and many more important issues.

Loretta Sanchez, who is also a Democrat, comes from a union family and supports promoting job creation and policies that will sustain long-erm economic growth and innovation. Her website is much less policy-driven than is Harris'.

State Senate: If you’re in the East Bay, Local 1546 recommends voting for Nancy Skinner for State Senate. "She has been very helpful to the union in trying to move the Berkeley Honda project forward," says Area Director Don Crosatto. On issues like Workers Comp, Unemployment, Wage and Hour, both she and her opponent Sandré Swanson were rock solid when they were in the Assembly. "Even after she termed out of Assembly, she walked the picket line with the union at the Ford Store in San Leandro, which is not even in her district."

Both candidates are good, but we give the nod to Skinner.

Buy Union

For many more great tips about union products and services, go to Labor 411 at This great resource tracks and promotes a wide range of union-made consumer products.