Elections 2022AOC Vows to ‘Unionize the Hell Out of This State’ While Campaigning for Texas Progressives

The two candidates receiving the New York congresswoman's support are competing against more moderate Democrats in the primary.
February 14, 2022
Stumping for two progressive Democratic congressional candidates over the weekend, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-NY) made a bold, if not overdone declaration. “Texas turning blue is inevitable,” she shouted to a crowd in San Antonio.

“And when it does, we’re going to make sure we unionize the hell out of this state!”

The joint campaign rally was for Jessica Cisneros in Texas’ 28th Congressional District and Greg Casar in Texas’ 25th Congressional District. It was organized by Justice Democrats, a progressive Political Action Committee shaped in the mold of the Tea Party — an anti-establishment group determined to primary incumbent Democrats deemed insufficiently progressive.

Born out of the ashes of Bernie Sanders’ failed 2016 presidential campaign, Justice Democrats played a large role in electing not only Ocasio-Cortez, but the other three congressional members who make up “The Squad” — Reps. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

“I don’t care how many cycles it takes, it is going to happen,” the New York congresswoman said.

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Ocasio-Cortez added that if the state flips, their agenda will consist of passing a “living wage,” generally considered between $16 and $18 per hour; confronting “corrupt industries and big money”; and ensuring “that not one dime is made exploiting any worker, especially the undocumented.”

Justice Democrats and Ocasio-Cortez are familiar with the two candidates receiving their support. Cisneros, an immigration attorney, was endorsed by the organization and congresswoman during her unsuccessful 2020 primary challenge against Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28), against whom she is running again. Casar, meanwhile, is a first-time congressional candidate but longtime figure in the political sphere of self-proclaimed Democratic Socialists.

During his time as an Austin city councilman, Casar advanced numerous left-wing policies such as the relaxed public camping and lying rules and a $150 million budget cut and redirection to the Austin Police Department.

Casar is running against state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez (D-Austin) and the two have already clashed on the camping policy, with Rodriguez knocking Casar for his role in the two-year public camping experiment.

The former Austin city councilman was also the executive director for the Workers Defense Project (WDP) — which acts a lot like a labor union for public contractors and laborers, often illegal immigrants, but does not file taxes as one.

The WDP has been successful in pushing cities like Austin and Houston to pass its preferred labor policies governing contractors.

During her speech, Ocasio-Cortez boasted the effort by workers of one local Starbucks store to unionize — the first such occurrence in Texas.

Ever since the 2018 U.S. Senate race, in which Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) staved off now-gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke, Texas Democrats have convinced themselves a window of opportunity exists.

That window was abruptly shut in 2020 when Democrats continued their quarter-century streak without winning a statewide election and could not build upon their 2018 gains.

Governor Greg Abbott responded to Ocasio-Cortez’s Texas campaign stops, saying, “Did you all see what happened over the course of the last weekend? On Saturday, of all things, the person who came to Texas, to San Antonio, to campaign for Democratic candidates was none other than [Alexandria] Ocasio Cortez.”

“She felt the need to tell people what Democrats stand for. We know exactly what they stand for — these radical leftist policies like the Green New Deal.”

“We are showing what needs to be done to keep Texas red,” he concluded.


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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is a senior reporter for The Texan and an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.