By Jeff Swanson
This union stuff is a sticky wicket. Having written quite recently about allowing unions to just fade away to the darkness of irrelevancy, it would seem weird that I would want to write about union workers.
Yet, here I go.
To be honest, this was precipitated by a Twitter post wherein the tweet composer stated; it didn’t matter how great teachers are if we are being pick pocketed by their unions. For the sake of full disclosure, I have written about my thoughts on teachers.
I disagreed with the tweeter but I think the exchange raised another issue the GOP needs to be mindful of; we need to separate the deeds of the union bosses from those of the workers.
This can be complicated. When unions strike, there’s picketing. An ad hoc protest we’ve all come to know. As a protest, there is nothing wrong with peaceable assembly. Agree or not, as a right to free speech, all Conservatives should support peaceful picketing.
As is frequently the case, union picketing can become very caustic. Ever see the union strike rat? The advent of the rat makes it sort of hard to look sympathetically to the strikers.
Yet we must.
According to a recent Gallup poll, “A slim majority of Americans, 52%, approve of labor unions, unchanged from 2010 and 2011, and up only slightly from the all-time low of 48% in 2009. Americans had been far more approving of unions before 2009 than they have in the last few years…In the last two years, union rights have been in the news, with Wisconsin and other states limiting public-sector union members’ benefits, if not the scope of what they are able to bargain for in new contracts. That news appears to have done little to change the way Americans view unions, since much of the decline in union approval preceded that, and views have been stable since.”
As Republicans, this sounds like a great thing; union favorability at a near all time low. Note it is still holding strong at 52%.
Why is this important? First, look at the percentages. They almost exactly mirror the result of the Presidential elections. Coincidence? Probably, yes. It would be little more of a causal connection to think that these statistics are related.
This is perhaps reflective of the electorate. While the study does state that Americans would like to see less influence in the labor market, even amongst Republicans, it is clear that there is still some level of union support.
Am I suggesting that Republicans give over to unions in exchange for support and votes? Not at all. To be clear, I do not think that Conservatives should get in bed with union leadership. At all.
There is a delineation between leadership and members. Something Republicans forget.
In attempting to extract the drag of union contracts on the economy, we often forget that unions support actual workers. Yes, even those who inflate rats. In as much as these things drive us crazy, Republicans need to look past it.
As noted in the New York Times, “Unlike in the past, this year’s Republican platform in Tampa, Fla., does not contain any sympathetic nods to the nation’s labor unions, which have become among the Republicans’ most formidable political foes. Instead, the platform calls for numerous steps that could significantly weaken America’s labor unions — public-sector and private-sector ones — and help speed organized labor’s overall decline.”
Take a look at the last few years: States taking on union contracts and labor rules. What about Boeing? Bills to limit NLRB power?
This on top of an RNC platform that states, “and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects.” which states that local government construction workers/contractors should be paid the local prevailing wage. While there are good reasons to repeal this, it never looks good when you want to repeal a law with a language that is looking to pay simply ‘the going rate’.
The reality is, all of these so-called attacks have merit. The flaw with these attacks are that, by extension, we are also attacking the workers too.
If the GOP wants to look like (and be) the party of CEO’s and not the party of those who work for a living, keep it up.
Many within the Republican ranks will disagree but one point needs to be crystal clear; we should never, ever attack any hard working American. Ever. Union or not.
Not only is demonizing union workers (or any worker) wrong on the most basic level, it also is a colossally bad PR move.
It would seem attacking unions and union (only) worker/members limits the liability of loss to those within the union. Basic word of mouth advertising theory would indicate how wrongheaded this is. Union members are our neighbors, friends and family members. A single union member can affect many people.
The GOP must be very clear that there is a difference between the actions of union leadership and our view on the workers. We can and do support anyone that wants to work hard. This needs to be clear.
To reiterate, by our current union attack methods, it seems more like we are attacking all working Americans. No one wants to do that. The GOP is alienating itself to a likely future of more election losses.
Why bother demonizing unions at all? We are fighting a ghost. HR departments are learning to keep unions out by simply stepping up the pay and benefits. Further, with the decline in favorability and a disappearing membership, the end is nigh. To what end is attacking a union useful?
The benefits don’t outweigh the losses.
If the GOP wants to recapture the favor of the hard working American, it is incumbent upon the party to represent all workers. The party does not have to change the policies in as much as be sure that we are focused on the union’s leadership as political fat cats.
Leave the worker to believe and understand that the GOP is the party for any and all hard working Americans.