On June 22, 2016, I, Josh Nixon, IBEW 553’s Press Secretary and Office Assistant, had the privilege of attending Hillary Clinton’s rally at the state fairgrounds in Raleigh. I was invited to the event by the North Carolina AFL-CIO and went as a representative of local 553, and also because I was a History and Political Science major in college. Despite the steamy, sticky humidity of the June weather, spirits were high as thousands poured into the expo center from across the state to catch a glimpse of the candidate who upholds their utmost aspirations and shares their vision for America’s future.
Before Hillary Clinton spoke, she was preceded by a number of guest speakers. Among those speaking were Chris Sgro, NC’s only gay state representative and Executive Director of Equality NC, and former NC Democratic Governor Jim Hunt. Clinton had much to say about our economy, helping working families, education, and yes, unions and collective bargaining.
In regards to Unions, Clinton stated, and I quote, “I believe we should strengthen unions, which have formed the bedrock of a strong middle class. It should be easier to bargain collectively. That’s not only fair, it makes workers more productive, it strengthens our economy.” She also stated, ” Unions are providing training programs that add value to the companies that employ their members. Union pension funds are already investing in infrastructure projects that have supported more than 100,000 jobs here in our country.” In addition, “We’re going to make this economy work for everybody.” Clinton also expressed support for programs like the JATC. “I will support the union apprenticeship and training programs already out there”.
Clinton outlined five steps she plans to implement. The first step is to “break through the dysfunction in Washington”. Second, to “make college debt-free for all.” Thirdly, to “rewrite the rules so that companies share more of their profits with employees, and few ship profits and jobs overseas.” Fourth, to make “Wall Street and the super-rich pay their fair share of taxes” and fifth, to “put our families first”. I was particularly intrigued by Clinton’s plans for the economy, Free tuition and debt reduction for those attending college or trade school, and support for apprenticeships, all of which will benefit the younger generation of workers. I may not be a member of the IBEW itself, but as a pro-labor person in my own life and experiences, it was refreshing to hear the things she said. The very things she proclaims to fight for, so too, does the IBEW and the labor movement in general: fair wages, dignity of work, and an economy that works for all and not just the top 1 percent.
To hear such words of support from a major political figure, especially in a right-to-work state, is unprecedented. To hear the roar of the crowd and the inspiring message was visceral and almost surreal. You always see political rallies on TV, but the feeling of actually being in one is an experience that simply can’t be replicated. I am happy to have had this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hear her speak, and more importantly, to be there representing our local union as we all march forward into a new American future.