Republicans Suddenly Desperate to Seem Pro-Union

GOP politicians are trying to use the UAW strike to suggest they're pro-worker. But, as always, actions speak way louder than words.

Politics
Republicans Suddenly Desperate to Seem Pro-Union
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Thousands of striking auto workers are currently in their second week of picketing, but a few allegedly populist Republicans are hoping to seize on the strike for their own purposes—namely, they want union workers to vote for them and their party despite the GOP doing nothing for unions, and at times, actively harming them. And it’s the assholes you’d expect who are trying to play this game, like Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), and former President Donald Trump.

President Joe Biden walked the picket line with United Auto Workers in Wayne, Michigan, on Tuesday as he looks to live up to the moniker of the “most pro-union president” in American history. Meanwhile, Trump is set to give a speech Wednesday night to mostly retired union workers at a non-union manufacturing plant in Detroit on Wednesday (instead of participating in the second Republican debate), and will not join a picket. He’s also running radio ads claiming that he “always had their back”—despite his Supreme Court appointees attacking unions, his National Labor Relations Board reversing several crucial Obama-era rulings, and the fact that he did nothing to try and raise the federal minimum wage.

But ignore all of those actual facts! Trump said in a recent NBC News interview that UAW bosses are to blame. “The auto workers are being sold down the river by their leadership, and their leadership should endorse Trump,” he said. Ah, yes, brutally criticizing the leader will get him to endorse you.

The UAW hasn’t yet endorsed Biden due in part to concerns the union has about the administration doling out billions to companies like Ford for electric vehicle battery plants with no requirements to use union labor. But Biden is at least trying to do good things in the face of a divided Congress—and the presence of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—and his NLRB is moving to expand workers’ rights.

By contrast, people like Hawley appear to be going to picket lines and just saying shit. The Senator went to a General Motors assembly plant in Wentzville, Missouri, on Monday and swore he was pro-worker. “I want to stand with them and their bold struggle to actually get what they deserve,” Hawley said. “We need to make things in this country. We need to keep the jobs that we have, increase their wages, and we need to get more jobs back here.”

It’s galling to see Hawley act like he’s a righteous fighter for working people when he doesn’t even support raising the federal minimum wage. He instead proposed a bill in early 2021 that would give people making less than $16.50 an hour some extra money via quarterly tax credits. (Rent is famously due every month, Josh.)

Hawley had the nerve to call the proposal “The Blue-Collar Bonus” and said that “it’s time we give blue-collar workers some respect and a pay raise.” Or you could simply give them an actual raise that would push up all other wages? Alas, Hawley told Axios that he only supports a $15 minimum wage “for workers of large corporations that generate at least $1 billion in annual revenue.” Hawley also voted against a March 2021 amendment to a covid-19 relief bill that would have slowly raised the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Yes, the same amendment that Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., infamously voted against in a gross little curtsy.) A real blue-collar hero, that guy.

When a reporter from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch pointed out Hawley’s abysmal ratings from labor unions—12% from the AFL-CIO and 0% from UAW—the Senator said those scorecards don’t matter to him and that he is “pro-worker.” Uh-huh.

He’s so pro-worker that he doesn’t co-sponsor the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would, among other things, override state-level “right to work” laws that make unions powerless to negotiate. Auto jobs keep moving to the South where, thanks to right to work laws, there are zero unionized plants and workers make much less money than in Midwestern states.

Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio) doesn’t sponsor the PRO Act either, but he’s been posting up a storm about the strike and saying he’s “among the most pro-labor Republicans in the U.S. Senate.” To Vance, the problems are that Biden is pushing the industry to go electric and that the UAW is too political: He told Insider that UAW president Shawn Fain wasn’t acting in the best interest of his workers because he ripped Trump’s Detroit visit. “The whole problem that we have is a guy like Shawn Fain blasting Donald Trump,” he said. “At the very least, just shut your mouth, and take the support from wherever you can get it.”

Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) told Insider that his two Senate colleagues are all talk, no action. “If they were pro-labor, they’d support the Protecting the Right to Organize Act,” Brown said. “It’s labor’s number one priority.” Brown added, “Electric vehicles, that’s the future. If the other side keeps doing this sort of faux-populist ‘we’re for workers,’ and these electric cars go overseas, then we’ve lost everything.”

In fact, zero Republicans sponsor the PRO Act. Just something to keep in mind this week and as the UAW strike continues.

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