US approval of labor unions is at its highest level in 57 years, and now union workers are hoping to transform their moment of popularity into political wins in November.
On Saturday, hundreds of unionized workers gathered in Dorchester to show their support for gubernatorial candidate Maura Healey and attorney general candidate Andrea Campbell, two Democratic women who, if elected, will make history at the polls.
The event was held in the parking lot of IBEW Local 103, where Healey and Campbell addressed the crowd while standing on a flatbed trailer. After the rally, some in the crowd planned to canvas door-to-door and ask voters to cast ballots for Democrats running for statewide office.
“This is labor’s moment,” said US Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston, a former ironworkers union leader. “I don’t think there’s been a time in my life when more people across this country understand the value of being a member of a union.”
A Gallup poll released last month showed 71 percent of Americans approve of labor unions, the highest approval rating recorded since 1965.
Chrissy Lynch, chief of staff for the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, urged the crowd to highlight their union membership when they speak to voters.
“You got to remember that work connects all of us. Everybody needs income. Everybody needs health care. Everybody needs to think about retirement security,” she said. “Candidates’ positions on issues that directly impact working families is the connection between all voters.”
A Suffolk University/Boston Globe/NBC10 Boston/Telemundo poll of likely midterm voters conducted after the Sept. 6 primary election found Healey leading her Republican rival, Geoff Diehl, 52 percent to 26 percent. The same poll found Campbell leading her Republican opponent, attorney Jay McMahon of Buzzards Bay, 50 percent to 24 percent among likely voters in the race for attorney general.
If victorious, Healey would become the first woman elected governor in Massachusetts and Campbell would become the first woman of color elected to statewide office.
Healey told supporters not to be complacent.
“You got to play like we’re 17 points behind because the forces that are out there — those who are looking to exploit and weaponize information for their own sad, cruel, cruel political game — are out there and they’re here in Massachusetts too,” she said.
Diehl, who has the backing of former president Donald J. Trump, scheduled campaign events Saturday in Hanson and Plymouth. He plans to campaign Sunday at Gillette Stadium, where the New England Patriots are playing the Baltimore Ravens, a campaign spokeswoman said.
Campbell said at the union rally that the November election is a chance to “meet people where they are.”
“The Supreme Court is going backwards and taking away our constitutional protections, our reproductive rights. You better believe they’re trying to come after our unions too. That’s what’s at stake,” she said.
In a telephone interview, McMahon said Campbell’s support from organized labor unions and their leaders doesn’t reflect how members of those groups view the attorney general’s race.
“I can tell you, the rank-and-file, most of them are with me,” he said.
He accused Campbell of refusing to debate him. Televised debates, he said, would give voters a chance to evaluate their views on law enforcement. McMahon claims Campbell would “decimate” police agencies if elected.
“Her response is, ‘We’ll see,’ and ‘We’ll see’ means no,” he said.
At the rally in Dorchester, one union worker said she brought her grandchildren to teach them about electing candidates who support the labor movement.
“I’ve traveled all over and I see that a lot of working families don’t have the same rights as union workers do,” said Kelly Abreu, a member of the American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, Council 93.
Abreu, who works at Worcester Recovery Center and Hospital, said she recently traveled to San Antonio, Texas, to advance AFSCME’s efforts to attract new members.
Some people she spoke with there didn’t know about the benefits of union membership and feared speaking to organized labor representatives, she said.
“They thought they were going to get fired from their job,” said Abreu, a Worcester resident. “They were living in fear.”
Her 11-year-old granddaughter, Carlianna Fernandez, reflected on watching three women, Healey, Campbell, and Mayor Michelle Wu, speak at a political event.
“It’s very inspirational,” she said.