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AFSCME members help elect worker-friendly Houston mayor, other local officials

Photo: Credit: Tomas Sereda/ Getty Images
AFSCME members help elect worker-friendly Houston mayor, other local officials
By Anna Dang ·
AFSCME members help elect worker-friendly Houston mayor, other local officials
Mayor John Whitmire. Photo: Houston Mayor's Office

The future got more hopeful for Houston city employees.

Members of HOPE AFSCME Local 123 advocated for their endorsed mayoral candidate, John Whitmire, who comfortably won his race with more than 65% of the vote, according to the Texas Tribune.

Leading up to the Nov. 7 elections, HOPE members diligently used one-on-one conversations during worksite visits, phone calls, block walking, events and meetings to target Houston’s 12,000 city employees. However, neither Whitmire, then a state senator, nor any other mayoral candidate won a majority of votes, which necessitated a runoff election.

Despite the additional effort, HOPE members’ support did not waiver. They followed up on those conversations with their co-workers to ensure Whitmire’s win on Dec. 9.

“I have been with HOPE since its inception in 2008, and I’ve seen that who is mayor really makes a difference for us,” said Sonia Rico, the president of HOPE and a customer service representative for Houston’s 311 department. “We work for the city of Houston, so he’s our boss. We need someone who is not only labor friendly, but HOPE friendly. John is both.”

The stakes were high in last year’s elections because the contract that determines city employees’ salary, benefits, working conditions, and more ends in June. HOPE members will start negotiations with the mayoral administration for a new contract at the beginning of this year. According to Rico, it is exciting that Whitmire’s team will be the one on the other side of the table.

“John didn’t make us any promises, and we weren’t looking for that,” said Rico. “That’s because we’re the ones who work for the city; we’re the ones who know how our jobs work. He’s been the one who directly asks us about our concerns, which means that he is willing to hear our voices. That’s what matters.”

Whitmire beat U.S. Rep Sheila Jackson Lee, who won 35% of the vote and was endorsed by AFSCME Local 1550.

HOPE-endorsed candidate for city controller Chris Hollins won his race with 59% of the vote.

Three HOPE Local 123-endorsed city council candidates also prevailed in the Dec. 9 runoff —Carolyn Evans-Shabazz, Mario Castillo and Letitia Plummer.

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