Workers’ Newest Allies in State and Federal Gov’t (Part 1)

In the coming months, we will be highlighting the newly-elected, pro-worker lawmakers for whom Steelworkers campaigned during the crucial 2022 midterm elections.

The lawmakers we will be highlighting received our union’s backing after a rigorous, internally developed selection process. Candidates’ beliefs must align closely with our core issues, including collective bargaining, health care, infrastructure, workplace health and safety, trade, and retirement security.  

In order to make this assessment, we look at candidates’ backgrounds and voting records, and we often meet with them. For federal candidates, we also require their response to a lengthy questionnaire developed by the union.

We’ve said it before: if a candidate is anti-union, regardless of party affiliation, they won’t get our support. It’s that simple.

Newly-Elected, Pro-worker Rep. Nikki Budzinski (IL-CD 13)

Last year, our union was proud to endorse Nikki Budzinski in Illinois’ newly-formed 13th Congressional District. Growing up in Peoria, Ill., Budzinski’s parents instilled in her a commitment to community and public service. Her grandfather, a union painter, and grandmother, a public school teacher, helped her understand the important role of unions in building a strong middle class.

After graduating from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Budzinski worked for the International Association of Fire Fighters and the United Food and Commercial Workers, advocating for improvements in pay and benefits, equipment, training, safety and health, and more.

She later served as a senior advisor to Governor JB Pritzker where she helped lead the charge to raise Illinois’ minimum wage to $15 an hour.

Most recently, Budzinski served as Chief of Staff in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget at the White House. The office oversees the implementation of the American Rescue Plan and helped launch President Biden’s historic Made in America Office that seeks to ensure taxpayer dollars support the growth of American companies creating jobs here at home.

Budzinski’s top priorities in Congress include:

  • expanding access to affordable health care and prescription drugs;
  • strengthening workers’ rights and expanding unions;
  • fighting for a tax code that puts poor and working families first; and,
  • ensuring world-class health care, rehabilitation and job-training services for veterans.

Chris Frydenger of USW Local 7-838 and Aaron Sutter of USW Local 4294 led our efforts to help secure a victory for Budzinski last year.

When Budzinski was sworn in during the first week of January 2023, we asked Frydenger and Sutter to reflect upon their experiences over the course of the campaign, and why they believe victories by labor-friendly lawmakers like Budzinski matter so much to Steelworkers.

“I think it is important to elect lawmakers that support workers because all it takes is one bad piece of legislation to greatly reduce our rights as workers,” said Frydenger. “As far as the work we did for Nikki, it was very easy to get motivated and stay motivated because I know that she values the same things that the labor movement values.”

Sutter added, “It’s crucial to support politicians that will serve the working class and fight for legislation that puts our rights as workers before the corporate greed that runs this country. It was great working with Nikki knowing that she supports our right to collectively bargain. The fact that she comes from a union background herself made it easy to explain to fellow Steelworkers why she was our best choice for Congress.”

Press Inquiries

Media Contacts

Communications Director:
Jess Kamm at 412-562-2446

USW@WORK (USW magazine)
Editor R.J. Hufnagel

For industry specific inquiries,
Call USW Communications at 412-562-2442

Mailing Address

United Steelworkers
Communications Department
60 Blvd. of the Allies
Pittsburgh, PA 15222