Beto did well in Texas last year-- but not well enough to beat Ted Cruz. Almost... but almost didn't do it. Today Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez is building on some of the foundations his campaign put in place.
There are close to a dozen Democrats who want the Texas senatorial nomination. Many of them are the same old centrist hacks who always know just how to lose statewide races; one sure loser was already endorsed by Schumer and the DSCC. Cristina has been endorsed by the Working Families Party and she's running to unseat someone even less popular than Cruz, John Cornyn, Moscow Mitch's No. 2.
Texas is the ultimate 2020 battleground state; it's been a Republican stronghold not because it is full of conservatives, but because of rampant voter suppression and a lack of attention to a younger, progressive generation of potential voters.
"In Texas," Cristina told me,
"there’s not a left choir to preach to, only a bunch of nonbelievers to convert, and I know that the best way to get people motivated and excited to actually participate in our democracy is by talking about policies that will actually change their lives. I know that because I’ve been fighting for working people in Texas for over a decade.
When I was 24, I founded the Workers Defense Project, a labor organization that represents workers, not an easy task in a right to work state like Texas. But even so, I went up against big bosses of the construction industry, and local city councils to advocate for and secure victories for working people. During my tenure, Workers Defense Project recovered almost $1 million in wages stolen from workers, secured paid rest breaks for construction workers and got wage increases for public school teachers.
John Cornyn doesn’t represent working people. He’s voted against minimum wage increases, voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and sided with pharmaceutical companies instead of helping to lower prescription drug costs. I, on the other hand, know that it’s not too much to ask, that in the richest country in the world, everyone’s healthcare is covered through a Medicare for All system. I know that a Green New Deal would create millions of jobs while combating climate change."
Demanding Dignity for Working People
-by Cristina Tzintzún Ramirez
Francisco is a primarily-Spanish speaking immigrant worker, who like many in Texas worked as a construction worker, working hard building our homes, schools, and workplaces with his blood and sweat. When I met him, his daughter was a small child, and his young family depended on him and his work to pay their mortgage, groceries, and other bills.
Francisco came to me at the Workers Defense Project, an organization I founded when I was just 24 to advocate for workers, because he had recently worked for someone, remodeling a house for over two weeks - and had not gotten paid. His employer had canceled his check, which he only realized when he got to the bank, ready to cash in his hard-earned dollars for his family’s needs.
At first, he thought it was an honest mistake, either on behalf of the bank or on behalf of the employer, and it was only after talking to other workers that he realized that the employer did this regularly and he did it on purpose.
He was stealing their wages. I was outraged when I learned Francisco’s story and realized what was happening. One of my driving forces is that when things are unjust or unfair, I get angry - and I get to work. Many of the people Francisco had talked to were unwilling to speak publicly about the employer for fear of retribution. Many of them were low-income and many of them were undocumented. But I wanted to right this wrong, and so I kept talking to workers and persuaded them to come on board. Because I knew there was power in organizing, power in workers, power in people.
Eventually, we built up a case against the employer, who had stolen wages from countless workers. He got arrested for theft of services, and more importantly, we were able to get workers like Francisco the money that they needed to support their families.
We won that battle, but we are still losing the war. Because this isn’t just about one lost paycheck, it is about demanding dignity for all working people. That employer felt that he could get away with not paying Francisco because he saw him as replaceable. Employers everywhere force workers to take a minimum wage that isn’t a living wage, they force workers to go without sick days, or call them “contractors” to avoid paying for health insurance.
In order to demand dignity for all working people, we need to fix the imbalance of power. As one of my friends and mentors, Jim Hightower, has said: “politics isn’t about left versus right; it’s about top versus bottom.” And I’m ready to take on those at the top. Because while I was making $43,000 a year representing construction workers like Francisco, my opponent John Cornyn was taking in millions from the construction industry.
We need officials who aren’t beholden to corporate donors, and instead are used to representing and fighting for people. I have stood side by side with workers. I’m not going to ask for the minimum, I’m going to advocate for full dignity for everyone.
I don’t think it’s too much to ask that in this country, everyone can go to the doctor if they are sick-- not just if they are sick and able to pay. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that every job provide a living wage. I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we address the climate crisis and invest in the green economy.
People told me that it wouldn’t be possible to recover Francisco’s paycheck. That there would be no way to prove wrongdoing, that no one would care about Latino construction workers. But we built up a grassroots army and we won. I am confident that we can win the bigger political battle against injustice the same way, bringing together working people who are going to demand dignity for all.
If you can, please consider a donation to Cristina's campaign, here.
Thanks for always doing what you can to make a better world,
Howie, for the entire Blue America team