Labor union pulls endorsement of Rashid, backs Foster in 11th District

An Illinois-based, regional office of a powerful labor union for autoworkers has rescinded its endorsement of the candidate challenging U.S. Rep. Bill Foster of Naperville in the Democratic primary for Illinois’ 11th Congressional District and instead is backing the incumbent, the group announced Thursday morning.

The UAW’s reversal is a blow to the campaign of challenger Qasim Rashid, who just last week had announced the union’s endorsement to reporters and on social media. The UAW had been the most prominent group to endorse Rashid’s bid to topple Foster from the post he’s held since 2013.

The UAW’s proclamation came hours before three members of the union attended President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address to Congress. Belvidere-based UAW Local 1268 President Matt Frantzen was Foster’s guest, while national union President Shawn Fain and Local 1268 member Dawn Simms were Biden’s guests and were singled out by the president as he spoke about saving jobs at the plant.

Now with endorsements from both the local and regional offices, Foster on Thursday said he’s grateful to have “the full support of the UAW.”

Responding to the UAW’s reversal, the Rashid campaign issued the following statement: “We proudly support unions, including the UAW, and advocate for labor rights and economic justice for all Americans, and take pride in being the sole candidate in this race rejecting all corporate donations, especially mega corporations that abuse union workers.”

Rashid repeatedly has criticized Foster for taking campaign donations from corporations, including auto manufacturers.

Foster successfully advocated for the autoworkers after automaker Stellantis announced plans to shutter its Belvidere Assembly Plant, effective early last year. While the factory is in the 16th Congressional District, many of the factory’s workers live in the part of Belvidere that’s in the 11th.

Foster spoke with Biden about the issue during a June presidential visit to Chicago, and saving the plant became a White House priority.

In exchange for promised state and federal incentives, Stellantis eventually agreed to hire back 1,200 employees to build pickup trucks and to add 1,300 more workers for a new battery factory.

When Biden went to Belvidere in November to celebrate the deal, Foster was there.

“I was proud to fight alongside UAW members, other elected officials and the White House to save the Belvidere Assembly Plant and bring jobs back to Illinois, and I will be with them every step of the way as they continue fighting for better pay, better working conditions and the economic security they deserve,” Foster said Thursday.

In late January, the Foster campaign unveiled a commercial featuring Frantzen and other Local 1268 workers enthusiastically supporting the congressman.

But last week, the UAW’s 12-state Region 4 office endorsed Rashid, a human rights lawyer from Naperville. In a news release, regional UAW representative John Gedney called Rashid “a proven advocate for working people” and proclaimed him to be the only candidate “aligned with UAW's principles.”

In response, UAW Local 1268 formally endorsed Foster the next day.

The regional UAW’s members voted to change their endorsement in the race Thursday night. Region 4 Director Brandon Campbell attributed the earlier support of Rashid by the Ottawa-based group to “some miscommunication in our internal democratic process.”

“The UAW is excited to endorse Bill Foster for Congress,” said Campbell, who got his start in the union with Local 1268. “Foster’s efforts to save, and build upon, thousands of Illinois jobs (in Belvidere) is just one of the many reasons that working families should join the UAW in support of Congressman Bill Foster.”

Rashid promoted the UAW’s previous endorsement of his candidacy as recently as Wednesday on social media. As of Thursday night, the campaign’s announcement of that endorsement remained on its website, and the UAW remained on its list of union supporters.

The 11th District encompasses portions of Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, Will, DeKalb and Boone counties. Foster has served the district since 2013, following nearly three years representing the nearby 14th District.

The winner of the March 19 Democratic primary will face one of three Republican candidates in the Nov. 5 general election: Susan Hathaway-Altman of Geneva, Jerry Evans of Warrenville or Kent Mercado of Bartlett.

Wearing a pro-union T-shirt over his dress shirt, President Joe Biden speaks to UAW members at a November 2023 rally in Belvidere. Saving the Belvidere Assembly Plant became a priority for Biden after U.S. Rep. Bill Foster and others alerted him to its possible closure. Associated Press
Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.