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Labor, Community Groups Host Meet & Greet with Former Congresswoman Donna Edwards

On Wednesday morning, former Congresswoman Donna Edwards shared reflections on our country’s current political atmosphere and her vision of the future of her community with a crowd of labor leaders, local politicians and interested residents of Prince George’s County. The event was hosted by UFCW Local 400, along with UNITE HERE Local 25, CASA in Action and LiUNA Mid-Atlantic, representatives of which enthusiastically introduced Edwards as an advocate and friend of working families.

Edwards, a former congresswoman from Maryland’s fourth district, lost a closely-watched Senate race last April in which she was endorsed by Local 400. As she explained to the crowded room, after leaving office, she seized the opportunity to go on a three-month road trip across the country. Edwards said this time away from home gave her space to reflect on her pride in her community and her ability to serve it. She returned from her trip more aware of the “promise and opportunity” of her county, and resolved to capitalize on this potential.

In her search for local solutions, Edwards recalled the community activism she was involved in beginning in 1999, when plans for a development project in Fort Washington included turning a two-lane road into a four-lane road. The road bordered Fort Foote Elementary School, and Edwards and other members of her community were determined to keep it a safe and welcoming place for children and their families. They saw the fruits of their activism in the completion of this re-developed road two years ago – still two lanes, but with added sidewalks, roundabouts, and bike trails.

“Progress is slow,” Edwards said, but for her this was a clear reminder of what can happen “when you organize in your community and fight for what you want in your community and don’t let up.”

She reiterated this message of collective community activism throughout a discussion in which constituents expressed concerns about education, immigration, health care, prison reform, and protecting the environment. She emphasized the fact that county governments have more flexibility than many realize in how they use taxpayer dollars, regardless of the policies of the federal government. “It’s tough for a county to push back against the federal government, but it’s the right thing to do,” she said. “Four years is a long time, but four years is a short time.”

She envisions refocusing county resources toward protecting and supporting the county’s large immigrant population, helping residents get the health care they need, and improving the area’s lowest performing schools. “Education doesn’t work trickle down, it works bottom up – just like, actually, a lot of things,” she said.

Indeed this seems to be Edwards’ strategy for enacting change in general: start at the bottom, with local issues like trash collection. Edwards recalled encountering a woman at the pharmacy who recognized her as an elected official and began complaining about her infrequent trash pick-up. “Little things can start to get on your nerves because they start to mirror some of the bigger problems,” Edwards said. “Structural problems become even more difficult to solve if people don’t trust you to pick up their trash.”

Edwards closed by addressing rumors that she is gearing up for another political campaign. “I haven’t decided if I’m going to run for anything,” she said. “What I have decided is that there are so many different ways that we can contribute to and strengthen our communities.”

While Edwards was sure to make clear that she has not made any decisions about whether she will run for political office in upcoming county or state elections, there is no doubt that she intends to remain a leader in determining the future of the county. For now she intends to think about how she can best serve, whether as an elected official, in the non-profit sector or somewhere else. “When I figure that out, y’all will know,” she said.

Members Lead Fight for Maryland Earned Sick Leave Bill

A team of Local 400 members played a pivotal role in winning passage of the Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland.

Local 400 Shop Stewards Darlene Butler-Jones and Bill Osborn had never gone to Annapolis to meet with their state legislators, testified before the Maryland General Assembly or spoken out at rallies before. So when they were asked to help lead Local 400’s campaign to pass the Healthy Working Families Act, they were a bit taken aback. But after four months of working full-time to make paid leave a right for all Maryland workers, they were fired up and thrilled with the results.

“I wouldn’t trade it for a dime,” said Darlene, who is a meat cutter at Giant #347 in Largo. Bill, a dairy clerk at Giant #339 in La Plata, echoed her sentiments, saying, “It was a really enriching experience.”

Darlene, Bill and three of their Local 400 brothers and sisters played a pivotal role in winning passage of the legislation by a 29-18 vote in the Senate on March 16 and an 87-53 margin in the House on April 7. The bill would allow full-time and part-time workers at Maryland employers with 15 or more employees to earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked, up to five full days per year for full-time workers, benefiting more than 510,000 Marylanders who are currently unable to earn paid sick leave.

Darlene Butler-Jones (left) poses for a photo with a fellow Local 400 member. Darlene was part of a team of union members gathered support for the Healthy Working Families Act in Maryland.

For Darlene, this was personal. “When I started work at Giant 20 years ago, I was widowed with young children,” she said. “I had no sick leave. When my children came home with bumps and bruises or when they got sick, I had to choose between their health and my paycheck. That’s a position no one should ever be placed into.”

Bill Osborn testified about the challenges the single mothers he works with face. “I see them struggle when their kid is sick,” he said. “If they can’t take their kid to day care, how do single parents make it if they don’t have paid leave?

“It’s only fair to have paid leave,” Bill said. “Employers owe it to their employees.”

Darlene and Bill were invigorated by their experience. “It’s been very educational because I’ve learned a lot—I didn’t know how long and tedious it is to get a law passed,” Darlene said. “But it’s rewarding, too—you get to meet people from all walks of life telling their stories. You realize how sick leave and a higher minimum wage means so much and makes people better citizens and more productive workers.

“Today, I can tell my 12-year-old granddaughter, ‘When you go to work, you’ll have paid sick leave, and you can know that your grandmother and her friends were a part of making that happen,’” she said.

“From the very first day, the first rally in Annapolis, we learned the process,” Bill said. “We encouraged our members to support the bill. We canvassed door to door in certain areas. We sat in on a lot of the committee meetings and legislative sessions. Each of us testified and talked about how it affected us.

“It was so satisfying knowing we were there from right at the beginning to all the way when the bill was sent to the governor,” he said. “It was inspiring and it motivated me to be more involved in other bills and to take steps in our union to help others understand the process.”

Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has threatened the veto the Healthy Working Families Act. Darlene, Bill and the three other team members are mobilizing public pressure on Hogan to sign the bill, but if he vetoes it, they’ll fight to get the House and Senate to override his vetoes. If no senator and delegate changes his or her vote, then the override will be successful and the bill will become law.

“If he vetoes it, I’ll be right back doing this all over again,” Darlene said.  “Without a doubt. Call me and I’ll be there.

“Each and every Local 400 member should get out, stand up for themselves, learn about politics and don’t be afraid to talk,” she added. “That’s the real lesson of this experience.”

Election Day West Virginia: Vote Tuesday, May 10

Tuesday, May 10 is election day in West Virginia! Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m.

Together with the West Virginia AFL-CIO, UFCW Local 400 has endorsed the following candidates for office. Who you vote for is your individual choice, but we encourage you to consider voting for the candidates below. We strongly believe these are the best choices for our members and all working people in West Virginia.

Print the complete list (PDF)

Find your polling place:

Don’t know where to vote? You can look up your polling place online or contact your County Clerk if you have questions. Polls open at 6:30 a.m. and close at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 10.

PARKERSBURG AREA

House Districts 8, 9, & 10

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw

 State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

House of Delegates – 10th District
Andy Daniel
Bill Merriman
Stephen Ruble

RIPLEY AREA

House Districts 11, 12, 13, & 14

State Senate – State Senate – 4th District
Brian Prim (D)
Dustin Lewis (R)

House of Delegates – 12th District
Missy Morris

House of Delegates – 13th District
Scott Brewer

TEAYS VALLEY AREA

House District 15

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw

 State Auditor
Jason Pizatella

 Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 4th District
Brian Prim (D)
Dustin Lewis (R)

House of Delegates – 15th District
Terrence Turley

HUNTINGTON AREA

House Districts 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, & 21

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw

 State Auditor
Jason Pizatella

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 6th District
Rocky Seay

State Senate – 7th District
Art Kirkendoll

House of Delegates – 16th District
Sean Hornbuckle
James Stacy

House of Delegates – 17th District
Chad Lovejoy
Matthew Rohrbach

House of Delegates – 18th District
Paul David Ross

House of Delegates – 19th District
Ken Hicks
Matthew McComas

House of Delegates – 20th District
Justin Marcum

House of Delegates – 21st District
Phyllis White 

BOONE, LINCOLN & LOGAN AREAS

House Districts 22, 23 & 24

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 4th District
Brian Prim (D)
Dustin Lewis (R)

State Senate – 7th District
Art Kirkendoll

House of Delegates – 22nd District
Jeff Eldridge
Gary McCallister 

House of Delegates – 23rd District
Rodney Miller

House of Delegates – 24th District
Ralph Rodighiero

BECKLEY AREA

House Districts 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 & 32

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 6th District
Rocky Seay

House of Delegates – 26th District
Ed Evans

House of Delegates – 29th District
Ricky Moye

House of Delegates – 32nd District
Greg Crist
John Pino
Margaret Anne Staggers

CHARLESTON AREA

House Districts 33, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39 & 40

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 4th District
Brian Prim (D)
Dustin Lewis (R)

House of Delegates – 35th District
Ben Adams
Andrew Byrd
Shawn Little
Ben Sheridan

House of Delegates – 36th District
Nancy Guthrie
Andrew Robinson
Larry Rowe

House of Delegates – 37th District
Mike Pushkin

House of Delegates – 39th District
Shannon Hagerman

House of Delegates – 40th District
Melissa Riggs Huffman (D)
Ronald Shamblin (R)

LEWISBURG AREA

House Districts 41, 42, 43 & 44

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

House of Delegates – 41st District
Adam Young

House of Delegates – 42nd District
Stephen Baldwin, Jr. (D)
Ray Canterbury (R)

House of Delegates – 43rd District
Bill Hartman

CLARKSBURG AREA

House Districts 45, 46, 47, 48 & 49

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 13th District
Roman Prezioso 

House of Delegates – 45th District
Bill Hamilton (R)

House of Delegates – 48th District
Richard Iaquinta
Derek McIntyre
Tim Miley
Wayne Worth

FAIRMONT AREA

House District 50

Supreme Court of Appeals
Darrell McGraw 

State Auditor
Jason Pizatella 

Secretary of State
Natalie Tennant

State Senate – 13th District
Roman Prezioso

House of Delegates – 50th District
Mike Caputo
Linda Longstreth
Tim Manchin