Last week, as Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema reiterated her opposition to filibuster reform as a way to protect voters, a dozen union activists from Unite Here Local 11 went on a hunger strike outside the state capital in Phoenix.
Readers may remember Marilyn Wilbur, who was one of the people I interviewed for my editorial The nation about how the union helped turn Arizona blue in the last presidential election. Wilbur — a military veteran with a history of battling cancer, has diabetes and was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor — was among those who fasted to protest attacks on voting rights that Arizona’s GOP lawmakers have joined with numerous lawmakers have passed by other states across the country since Trump lost the 2020 election.
The hunger strikers hope that Sinema will take note of their actions. “We knocked on doors, emailed, called, did the Freedom Ride [a bus trip to DC to highlight the escalating assault on voting rights]She marched, was in her office,” Wilbur said on the fifth day of her fast. “This is just another form of nonviolent resistance and it puts our bodies at risk. As a retired military man, I know something about putting your life on the line. This is important. This is serious enough that I’m willing to risk my life.”
Sinema’s victory in 2018 was hailed as a turning point in Arizona politics, when a red state that had long flirted with purple status finally turned blue. But in recent weeks she has alienated pretty much every core of the activist alliance that helped her win that victory. She, along with Joe Manchin, opposed the Build Back Better Act and bizarrely drew a red line on efforts to lower drug prices and raise corporate taxes for big companies – positions that drew a pointed and personal rebuke Bernie Sanders. Now she has become the leading voice within the Democratic Party push back in Biden and Schumer’s efforts to limit the filibuster to allow majority voting on critical legislation like voting rights protections.
earlier this week, Emily’s list announced that they would not support their re-election efforts unless Sinema changed her position in the filibuster. And UNITE HERE, one of the local activist unions that has been key in 2018 in building support for them, is just as angry.