Jeanette Rishell, candidate for the House of Delegates from the 50th District, knew she was in a friendly crowd when she attended last night’s Northern Virginia Central Labor Council meeting in Annandale.
Rishell showed up in white slacks and sneakers with white socks. As she apologized to one audience member for the casual attire saying, “I’m sorry for the shoes but I’ve been out walking my district.”
She got back a cheerful, “Oh that’s ok, that’s just what we want you to do to win.”
Rishell grinned broadly.
She was introduced by former firefighter and fellow blogger Bruce Roemmelt, who is still a member of the Central Labor Council. The reception grew friendlier still. As Roemmelt, who ran against Bob Marshall in 2005, explained to the group, his interest in Jeanette’s candidacy grew stronger after he heard her deliver a sermon last September at church.
Both are members of the Bull Run Unitarian Universalist Church (UUs). The Unitarian Universalist Church goes back to the earliest days of the United States and boasted Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Ben Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson as members or supporters. The church has always had a progressive reputation.
Jeanette Rishell spoke as a lay participant in the church service. Most UU churches have ministers who perform the service three weeks out of every month, with a lay-led service on the fourth week. The lay-led service last September coincided with Labor in the Pulpit, an AFL-CIO sponsored program that encourages ministers and congregations to think about and discuss social justices issues including workers’ rights, minimum wage, and the right to organize and join unions. The program is held either on the Sunday before Labor Day or close to it in various church congregations, including Catholic, Methodist, Episcopalian, and Presbyterian. Some Jewish synagogues have Labor in the Bema events on that Friday night or Saturday as well.
At this particular service, Rishell, a former history major in college who now works as Project Assistant to the Chief Financial Officer at Carteret Mortgage Corporation, discussed the important role organized labor had on American history and the rights of all workers.
At last night’s meeting of Northern Virginia organized labor, she made the same points as she had last September in her church.
Rishell pointed out that today children are not taught about labor’s contribution or its importance to American history. She called that “a concerted effort on the part of those in power” to deny labor’s role in providing a safe working place, minimum wage laws, and health and pension benefits to workers.
She reminded the audience, composed of trade unionists, of “the long, bloody” struggle of unions against the power of big business in the early 20th century, invoking the life and beliefs of Walter Reuther, the legendary United Auto Workers Union leader who died in 1970. Rishell also spoke about how U.S. trade policies and international treaties have damaged not only organized labor but have eroded the rights of employees who are not protected by unions. Most workers in America do not belong to unions and increasingly have seen that their wages have less buying power and their health benefits and pension plans are being eroded as they watch their jobs being shipped overseas.
Jeanette Rishell, a grandmother, promised to be a good friend to labor and to all workers, and to work as hard as possible to win her election and to fight for Virginians.
Her other issues include slowing out of control growth in the 50th district, holding landlords responsible for overcrowding in rented houses, pursuing legislation to punish businesses that knowingly hire illegal workers and addressing the root issues that cause illegal immigration, including the erosion of worker rights and depressed wages. She also would like to work on legislation to ensure that adequate public facilities laws protect citizens from the transportation headaches caused by new development.
As she ended her speech she said that she is proud to be a fighting grandma working to better the lives of all working people in Virginia.
And the crowd gave its approval. It grew even friendlier for the grandmother whose pledge is to fight for the little guy in Virginia.
Jeanette will face conservative Republican Jackson Miller in the November race.