Labor, Democracy & the Common Good

Top Democratic candidates for labor commissioner, attorney general and other statewide offices turned out for the Atlanta-North Georgia Labor Council’s annual Labor Day rally with the state AFL-CIO on Sept. 5 to drum up momentum for the midterm elections. 

“Civil rights and voting rights are labor rights,” said labor commissioner candidate William Boddie, evoking the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King’s assassination in Memphis while organizing a sanitation worker strike. 

“We’re going to put people over profits,” Boddie told the crowd of about 50 at a rally in front of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) building in downtown Atlanta. Boddie, who’s running against Republicans Bruce Thompson and Emily Anderson, said he’d protect Georgians from unsafe working conditions. 

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens and Fulton County Solicitor General Keith Gammage were among the Democratic elected officials who turned out, while U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams made an appearance at a post-rally picnic at the United Auto Workers (UAW) hall near the airport.

AFL-CIO and IBEW leaders endorsed the Democratic candidates and called for solidarity to kick off the event, which included a big turnout from the state’s unions, including the UAW, and labor rights advocates such as Georgia Stand-Up and the New Georgia Project. Organizers called off a planned march to the Capitol due to approaching storms.

The union coalition will be key to turning out the vote for the Democrats as the midterms approach. 

The national AFL-CIO has identified Georgia as one of nine battleground states where they are mobilizing on the ground to boost turnout. 

Georgia STAND-UP staff and supporters rally for labor rights. Credit: Kendall Glynn

Agriculture commissioner candidate Nakita Hemingway, pledged to be “the first agriculture commissioner – not just in Georgia but in the nation – to unionize farmers.” 

State Sen. Jen Jordan (D-Sandy Springs), who is running for attorney general against Republican incumbent Chris Carr and Libertarian candidate Martin Cowen, reminded the crowd that the state’s top lawyer can enforce workers’ rights when employers violate the law. 

“Y’all remember that the attorney general can go after folks for misclassification, wage theft, targeting, and other issues,” she said.

Jordan added that Georgia needs an attorney general who actively supports labor rights to ensure other statewide officials can accomplish their own agendas for workers. “The AG is like the spoke of a wheel. It’s about making sure they are as successful as they can be at their jobs to support each and every one of you,” she said. 

All told, about 15 Democratic candidates for office attended the Labor Day event, including state Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Candler Park), who’s running for secretary of state and says she’s a card-carrying member of IBEW Local 613; state Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson), who is up for reelection; Charlie Bailey, who’s running for lieutenant governor; and Marcus Flowers, who’s challenging Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene for her North Georgia congressional seat.

Bailey advocated for a prevailing statewide wage, higher pay for teachers and making technical schools free again in Georgia, sharply contrasting his political agenda with that of his Republican opponent, state Sen. Burt Jones (R-Jackson). Libertarian Ryan Graham is also challenging Jones.

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