Path to Power: Candidates reshaping political landscape of Washington state

Empowering the next generation of pro-union politicians

This story was published in the Spring-Summer 2024 issue of The Washington Nurse.

24 illustration Path to Power candidates reshaping political landscape of Washington state

In late March, I had the honor of participating in a political candidate training program, Path to Power, at the Machinists District 751 Hall in Seattle.

The conference, hosted by the Washington State Labor Council March 26-28 was a great way to help pro-labor candidates.

Path to Power is dedicated to equipping current and prospective political candidates with the tools and knowledge necessary to advocate for unions and workers’ rights in their roles.

This year, the event brought together a diverse array of union-affiliated individuals, including machinists, nurses, teachers, and members of the construction trades.

Throughout the three-day conference, 25 aspiring officeholders running for various positions, including those in the state legislature, county and city councils, and school boards, converged to absorb invaluable insights into the realm of political candidacy.

We were fortunate to hear from Washington State Labor Council President April Sims and Secretary-Treasurer Cherika Carter, a dynamic duo who hold the distinction of being the first two Black women to lead a state AFL-CIO labor council. The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) is a federation of 60 national and international labor unions that represent more than 12.5 million working people.

Sims and Carter shared their experiences of how the Path to Power conference over the past decade had played a pivotal role in nurturing pro-labor politicians and bolstering representation for marginalized communities, including Black, Indigenous, People of Color, LGBT+ individuals, and working-class families. These candidates have been reshaping the political landscape of Washington state.

Attendees collaborated with seasoned political professionals to craft compelling stump speeches, master the art of effective fundraising, and adeptly communicate our pro-labor and pro-human rights messages. Practical sessions delved into the intricacies of surveying a political landscape—understanding voter demographics, analyzing past electoral trends, and evaluating the personal and financial commitments involved in running for office.

Presenters also underscored the transformative impact of labor-focused legislation on the lives of Washingtonians.

Pro-labor candidates have ushered in safe staffing regulations for nurses, legalizing digital signatures on union cards for state public employees and ensuring access to essential feminine hygiene products and lactation spaces for construction workers.

Washington’s status as a union stronghold—from the hospital floor to the chambers of the Senate and House—is undeniable. The Washington State Labor Council’s ongoing efforts to cultivate a new generation of pro-union leaders will undoubtedly fortify this legacy for years to come.

Note: The Washington State Labor Council is made up of 600 local unions, representing more than 550,000 union members working in our state.