Hey Reince Priebus — GOP must define the unions, not the reverse

English: Reince Priebus at the Republican Lead...

English: Reince Priebus at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Very seldom do I just write a straight opinion piece, but I felt the need to do so with the hope that somewhere Reince Priebus (or someone equally influential in the conservative movement) will read this and maybe, just maybe take some of it to heart.  I had a column prepared regarding the East Coast dock strike, but they strike all the time so I will save that for the next contract negotiations.  These thoughts, to me at least, carry a more important message.

While doing a radio interview this past Friday, it struck me how very little the American people know about unions and the labor movement in the U.S.  We listen to “experts” on both the right and left – experts who have never belonged to a union.  Understand that belonging to and being in a union are two different things.

A few days ago on the Fox News Channel, a far left liberal professor spouted accolades about unions and how more Americans should be in a union.  She suffers from the same thing that most union members suffer from – believing only in the ghost of Christmas past.  Unions haven’t been the champions of the working class since John Sweeney took over the AFL-CIO and their fate was sealed when Andy Stern and Richard Trumka made their appearance.  This professor spouted that unions provide better wages, but nothing was mentioned about the decade of concessionary bargaining that has occurred.

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.Twitter: @Wking@unionhypocrisy

Rebecca Smith is a contributor to The Brenner Brief and an expert on union issues.
Twitter: @unionhypocrisy

The right are just as guilty, parading CEO’s that have no experience or desire to relate to union members and asking their opinion on how it affects their business.  Most workers aren’t concerned about a CEO’s desire to have more flexibility over his company.  Many even fear that flexibility.  Yet, we wonder why the working class feels alienated by the conservative movement.

What I would like to know is why Republicans and conservatives are afraid to hold up a mirror to the unions and start to reveal what unions are to the membership?   When is the conservative mainstream media going to offer an alternative image of the union that is not supplied by a CEO or a stockbroker?

Why do we not reveal what unions are and what is required of their membership?  Where was the conservative mainstream media when the unions utilized the “dreaded union busting tactics” against their own employees?  Alternatively, has anyone explored the trade unions war on women?  Did anyone in the GOP even know that war existed?

Think of the progress we could make with working people if we target our message to the audience and construct it so it carries meaning for them.   I have seen some attempts at it, but the falls short because the consultants and experts whose voices are so revered in the GOP do not know how to talk with them.   Tradespeople are proud people, and they should be, but sublimely the message they hear is that they are not as good as a college graduate – not as smart.  The left carries this message more than the GOP, yet we do not take advantage of the slight towards the working class.

It is past the time to address a labor board that is ethically challenged.  Either siding with employers or unions, but never the employee –the very people the National Labor Act was designed to protect from both of the aforementioned.   This is low hanging fruit for Republicans to pick.

Unions are working to expand their base in Arizona and Florida as we speak.  They almost defeated Joe Arpaio, and next time they may succeed.  Unions have defined the Republican party and the GOP has allowed it to happen.  Our victories in Wisconsin did not bring down the unions – it strengthened their resolve to survive.

If we are to win in 2014 and in 2016, we need to begin recognizing and neutralizing our opponents. We have to stop under estimating them.  It is time for conservatives to think out of the box and start defining the unions. 

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