Elections 2022Beto O’Rourke Campaign Staffers Vote to Unionize

The union's existence will run through the November 8 election.
July 29, 2022
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The 129 staffers of the Beto O’Rourke campaign for Texas governor voted to unionize, becoming the first statewide campaign in state history to do so.

One of the union’s co-founders, Rocio Avila, said, “Like Beto O’Rourke, we practice what we preach. We want to send a message that every worker in this state should have the right to demand better wages, benefits, and working conditions. We want to join them in that fight.”

“Beto O’Rourke’s support for workplace benefits for all Texas workers, for good unionized climate jobs tied to the fight against climate change, and for civil rights that affect all working Texans is matched by how he acts toward his own campaign employees,” tweeted Texas AFL-CIO staffer Leonard Alejandro.

The union agreed to a contract through the Office and Professional Employees International Union (OPEIU) Local 277. An OPEIU official told The Texan the union will last through the November 8 election.

Chris Evans, spokesperson for the O’Rourke campaign, told The Texan, “We’re proud to be walking the talk, and as governor, Beto will fight to raise the state’s minimum wage for the first time in more than 13 years, make Texas a Right to Organize state, and ensure our economy finally works for all Texans.”

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“Under Greg Abbott’s failed leadership, four in 10 working Texans don’t make a living wage. We’re running this campaign for a Texas where every worker has a living wage, great benefits, the right to join a union, and dignity on the job.”

Renae Eze, Abbott campaign spokesperson, told The Texan, “The way Beto O’Rourke runs his campaign is the way he wants to run Texas — straight into the ground with his extreme socialist labor policies.”

“This sort of European-style collective bargaining is a nightmare for business and would destroy the Texas Miracle. Beto O’Rourke is reaping what he’s trying to sow in Texas.”

During his run for governor, O’Rourke has shied away from the progressive union-focused rhetoric of his presidential campaign, when he touted sector-wide collective bargaining practices like those that predominate Europe.

Back in 2019 when he was running for president, O’Rourke tweeted, “Unions are the engine of our economy—and a pathway to the middle-class for millions of Americans.”

But in his current platform, O’Rourke only mentions unions once in reference to transitioning away from fossil fuel use, creating “over 1 million high-skill, high-wage unions jobs in geothermal energy, offshore wind, hydrogen, battery storage, and more in the years to come.”

It’s not the first time he’s appeared to shift rhetorically on the issue.

Back during his time on the El Paso city council, O’Rourke was a key player in a fight with the city’s police union over their positions taken during the then-ongoing labor contract fight. During that fight, he said, “there needs to be better checks on collective bargaining in the public sector.”

Joe Tellez, president of the El Paso Firefighters Association, told The Intercept back in 2019 that O’Rourke was focused solely on the police union during this fight. “[W]e had one-on-one conversations that, point blank, he supported our collective bargaining rights, and he always voted on our issues in an affirmative way while he was in Congress,” Tellez said.

While O’Rourke’s pro-union rhetoric has tempered since his presidential run, he’s endorsed by numerous unions, including the Texas AFL-CIO, the Texas American Federation of Teachers, the Service Employees International Union Texas, and the Texas State Employees Union.

And his aim to pass “Right to Organize” legislation would turn back the clock on Texas’ “Right to Work” status.

As a “Right to Work” state, Texas prohibits employees from being required to join a union or pay its dues as a prerequisite to employment. The state is strewn with public “associations” which serve much the same function as unions but get around the state’s collective bargaining prohibition by allowing employees to opt-out and certain statutes outright exempt larger population centers from the prohibition in the Texas Constitution.

Among progressive circles, unionization is becoming one of the top priorities. On a campaign stop earlier this year for two progressive congressional candidates, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) declared, “Texas turning blue is inevitable and when it does, we’re going to make sure we unionize the hell out of this state!”

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Brad Johnson

Brad Johnson is 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.