802 member John Hall performs at a house party fundraiser in Carmel, New York, in October. Photo by Suzanne Grossberg.
For the first time ever, a Local 802 member has been elected to Congress. Guitarist and singer-songwriter John Hall, a Democrat, beat incumbent Republican Sue Kelly to represent the 19th district, which includes all of Putnam County, and some of Orange, Dutchess, Westchester and Rockland counties.
“I thank our hundreds of volunteers from the bottom of my heart,” Hall said. “This vote was really about people wanting a change and creating a movement for change. And, as the old song goes, a change is going to come.”
More than 1,400 volunteers joined the campaign, including many Local 802 members. Hall joined Local 802 in 1969 and formed the rock group Orleans a few years later. The group still performs today and Hall even appeared with them a few times on the campaign trail.
Several of Hall’s musician friends came to his side in the campaign, including Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Pete Seeger, Roseanne Cash, Nancy Griffith, Graham Nash, Bruce Springsteen, John Sebastian and Steven Van Zandt.
Hall’s campaign was seen as a win for the labor movement. “In addition to our own base of citizen volunteers, we simply could not have won this without hundreds of hard-working union members who reached out to tens of thousands of their fellow workers,” Hall said. “Working families have been hit hard by the Bush administration and its Congressional supporters, but we mean to change that.”
Hall won the endorsement of both Local 802 and the AFM, in addition to the AFL-CIO, 1199
SEIU, and many other unions.
Hall made the end of the Iraq war and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops, universal healthcare and safe, alternative energy sources the signature issues of his campaign.
“We’re on the move now, and we mean to take our country back,” said Hall. “Our campaign was about defending and advancing the interests of the people of our district and our country, rather than those of George Bush and the big oil, insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.”
Hall criticized his opponent Sue Kelly’s support for unfunded federal mandates, like No Child Left Behind, which has put many communities in a financial squeeze that has resulted in less money for instruction in the arts. Having been entranced by both music and science from an early age, Hall is a good example of why a balanced approach to education is important.
Hall has three decades of activism on behalf of the Hudson Valley environment and has served as a school board president and county legislator.
CHANGE IS IN THE AIR
Change is in the air. Democrats have won the House and Senate, and for the first time ever, an 802 member has been elected to Congress.
What changes will a Democrat-controlled Congress bring? A few guesses include:
Democrats will not have a veto-proof supermajority, but they will chair all of the committees and be able to set the agenda.