DOWNTOWN — A group of women used a projector to shine a massive Biden/Harris logo across Trump Tower and other Chicago spots early Saturday.
Between 4 and 7 a.m., the group of four women also shined the light on the walls of the Chicago Theatre, the Art Institute of Chicago, Wrigley Field and famed hot dog stand Wiener’s Circle. They took photos and moved on to another city to continue the project.
The Women of Steel group are behind the nighttime “batlight” tour, which aims to spread voter awareness and bring attention to their preferred candidates, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
The women are part of the United Steelworkers union, North America’s largest industrial union.
Tamara Lefcowitz, who works for the health care sector at the union’s headquarters in Pittsburgh, is participating in the tour. It began in September and participants plan to hit 25-30 cities before the election Nov. 3.
Lefcowitz said the project is a fun way to get out the message that voting in the upcoming election is important for the lives of steelworkers while activating union members across the country in a pandemic-friendly way.
“We represent essential workers who have been out there risking their lives since the beginning of the pandemic,” Lefcowitz said. “What we are doing is something fun, but the reason we are doing it is deadly serious — it’s literally life or death for our members.”
Lefcowitz said the Chicago leg of the tour drew an overwhelmingly positive response from local union leaders and people on social media, especially since shining the light on Trump Tower had special significance.
The women stood on public property to shine the light on the tower. Officers in the area didn’t notice — or, at least, didn’t stop them.
“The funny part for us was pulling this operation off without anyone noticing until we were gone from the city,” Lefcowitz said.
To keep the project a little mysterious, Lefcowitz declined to say where the women stood and how they got the photos of the light on Trump Tower, but she said they were surprised by how many police were guarding the building.
The intent of shining the light on the tower was not to disrespect or create conflict but to get attention for the project, Lefcowitz said.
It worked: Within hours, social media blew up with support, calling the women heroes and asking if they can come to other cities.
There’s also been pushback from union members who don’t agree with the endorsement. Lefcowitz said United Steelworkers recognizes that and it’s a natural effect of representing a large group of workers, but the decision to endorse Biden and Harris came after extensive town halls, questionnaires and surveys from union members.
“We are not trying to tell people who to vote for. We are trying to tell people which candidate is best for the steelworkers,” she said. “The opinions of our members [with] dissenting voices, they still matter when we are advocating for their rights at the bargaining table and when we are advocating for their health and safety rights.”
Cindy Odden, who works in the rubber industry in Madison and is part of the union, came out to show support for the Women of Steel when they passed through her city Oct. 13.
The 23-year steelworker said working in industrial jobs historically held by men can make it feel like women don’t have a voice, but the union makes sure women have equal representation and get access to the same opportunities their male coworkers have.
Voting in the presidential election is important to Odden because she thinks the Trump administration has not done enough to protect essential workers’ health, safety, employment and retirement, especially for families. She said steelworkers deserve more respect and dignity, and the Biden and Harris platform can provide that through contributions to collective bargaining and upholding the Affordable Care Act.
“We are fighting for our health care. We are fighting for retirement, health and safety and collective bargaining rights,” Odden said. “We are fighting for our kids and grandkids, and we are fighting for a better America.”
Odden said the batlight tour reminds steelworkers what they are fighting for and encourages members to vote for change that can directly impact their lives.
“We want to go to work and be able to come home at the end of the day,” she said. “There should be no worker that goes to work and dies at work, but unfortunately that happens.”
These concerns from union members are what keep the Women of Steel working 20 hours a day to make sure members get out and vote Nov. 3, Lefcowitz said. They plan to focus on battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio next.
“We know the folks who do the work that we represent and we know how serious the impact … of another Trump presidency would be for those working conditions,” she said. “We need a new administration that is going to take worker safety seriously and stop undermining the established labor law in this country.”