How a union member helped thwart Ruben Ramirez’s CD 15 campaign

PHARR, Texas — If Ruben Ramirez does indeed lose his bid to become the next U.S. Representative from Congressional District 15, he could blame a specific union member at PSJA ISD.

American Federation of Teachers activist Zachary Holzworth (pictured above) worked hard to make sure Ramirez didn’t get Texas’ AFL-CIO endorsement, even though the Central Labor Council of Rio Grande Valley voted 5-1 in favor of Ramirez.

Holzworth was the only board member to vote for Ramirez’s opponent in the Democratic Party’s second round, Michelle Vallejo. Usually the Texas AFL-CIO will go with what the local labor council says.

“Once you get the Texas AFL-CIO endorsement, you get a good amount of money and they offer other resources. They’ll send shippers, they’ll get people to block the march, they’ll get people to phone the bank. So my efforts probably made a very, very, big difference,” Holzworth said.

Holzworth said he called Texas AFL-CIO President Richard Levy to say Vallejo was Labour’s true friend in the race. Working with the Vallejo, Holzworth managed to keep the Texas AFL-CIO neutral in the CD-15 second round.

“When you look at how badly this race ended, for Ruben not to get the endorsement, that was huge,” Holzworth said.

Vallejo won the race. Her lead, after nearly all mail-in ballots and overseas ballots have been counted, shows her with a lead of just over 30 votes. Ramirez didn’t cash in and may well ask for a recount. In social media posts over the weekend, Ramirez urged supporters to call to make sure their ballot was counted.

When asked why PSJA’s AFT members chose Vallejo, Holzworth said: “When we were looking for a candidate to endorse, we wanted a strong progressive, someone who would actually fight for working people. And when you look and compare Michelle and Ruben, there’s a stark contrast.

Holzworth said Vallejo “only took money from people,” while Ramirez “took money from PACs, even corporate PACs.” He said that “tells you something about who is on the workers’ side”.

Holzworth said he also likes Vallejo’s stance on key policy issues.

“Michelle is in favor of Medicaid for All. She is in favor of raising the minimum wage to a living wage. These are things that Ruben is really not in favor of. These are some of the reasons we have endorsed Michelle over Ruben.

Another reason for supporting Vallejo, Holzworth said, was his passion for the Rio Grande Valley and its people.

“We were truly in love with Michelle’s love for the valley. Never before had a candidate really wanted to center the voices of the people of the Valley like Michelle. The Valley has kind of been marginalized in a lot of ways, and Michelle sees the beauty and the dignity and the worth in the Valley and that’s something that most of the candidates running in this field lack,” said Holzworth.

Holzworth explained how his individual crusade against Ramirez blossomed.

“The local unions are part of an organization called the Central Labor Council, which is like a local branch of the Texas AFL CIO. At a meeting, a majority of the other unions, in fact everyone but me, voted for Ruben Ramirez to be approved. I was so appalled. I contacted Rick Levy, the president of the Texas AFL CIO. I contacted Evelyn Ramirez, the vice-president of the AFT, and I also contacted the people from Michelle’s campaign. And then Michelle and I kind of came up with a strategy on how we could prevent that from happening because it was wrong. It would be so abominable for the Texas Labor House to support a candidate who doesn’t really support workers. That’s why I wanted to stop Ruben’s approval.

Holzworth said he and Vallejo were aided by state and national politicians who supported the underdog campaign.

“We hatched a plan that these politicians would also contact the AFL-CIO of Texas, and then through these secondary channels we helped stop Ruben’s endorsement.”

When asked if his efforts had made a big difference, Holzworth said: “Think about it, if you’re a worker in a union and you get something in the mail, a phone call or a text from someone a Texas AFL-CIO saying it’s the labor candidate, who’s likely to sway you, especially if you’re on the fence. So, I’m really glad I played a part in stopping it because I know Ruben isn’t a friend from work, but Michelle definitely is.

Holzworth added, “I’m sure Michelle can beat Monica and so I’m proud to be part of this effort. We need her voice in Congress.

The “Monica” Holzworth was referring to Monica De La Cruz, the Republican Party nominee for CD 15. The seat is open because incumbent U.S. Representative Vicente Gonzalez chose to run in Congressional District 34. neighbour.

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