When Democrats have a worse record with unions, why are Republicans the enemy?

Why does the disconnect between unions and Republicans exist? The truth is — Republicans have more in common with the blue-collar trade workers than union members have with the Democrats. The biggest union busting president on record was Jimmy Carter – with the help of Ted Kennedy. Carter did more to destroy unions than any president before him or any president after him.

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

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

It was Bill Clinton who signed NAFTA, another blow to labor, and now President Obama is signing the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement. So, why is the GOP treading water with unions?

For starters, it would help if the GOP did not lump all union members under the socialist umbrella. Just as not all minorities are Democrats, not all union members are liberal. Several days ago, I had lunch with a long time union friend of mine.  He holds a position as an apprentice coordinator with a trade union, and he read an article I wrote on the history of democratic union busting. Our conversation about politics went like this: “Hey, real good story with valuable information. Working people, especially the middle class, would benefit if they understood the whole system instead of the ‘BS’ they’re sold….”

He then went on to say, “I think both parties are in cahoots.  I think Boehner and Obama are back slapping and laughing it up at our expense behind closed doors.”

Did I mention this union person is himself a black American?

He continued to express that he believed that Americans were the victim of one big con. When asked, he confirmed that he related more to the libertarian party.  He is a registered Democrat because “Republicans don’t like union members.”

I like union members.  I abhor their leadership, but a trade union member just wants to be treated with respect and a fair wage.  Notice I said “trade union.” There is a marked difference between a sheet metal worker and an SEIU member.  Let me give you a quick rundown on the typical blue-collar trade unionist:

  1. They like their guns
  2. They have strong religious beliefs even if they don’t attend church
  3. They believe in their country
  4. They support the military
  5. They tend to be hawks on foreign affairs
  6. They don’t want their teenage daughter having access to abortions without their knowledge
  7. They believe in working for a fair wage and hate supporting dead weight even if it’s a fellow union member laying down on the job
  8. They take pride in their craft

Those are just a few of the common interest points.

My husband is a tried and true libertarian conservative. Oh, and he is a union member. He watches Bill O’Reilly every night and he hates the SEIU, Occupy Wall St, and the bloated public employee salary and benefit packages. He thought it was smart when his union agreed to a five-year wage freeze when the bottom fell out in 2008. It is good business to help an employer through the tough times.  It’s called common interest bargaining. Another good friend of ours who watches football every Sunday with us is a Tea Party member and a Teamster.

The conservative leadership would do themselves a favor if they call out the union leadership instead of lumping the members into one category.  In fact, it would be smart of the GOP to start a dialogue with the trade union members who actually have common ground with them – think Keystone Pipeline.  They can do that by finding and recruiting conservative and libertarian union members in their district and finding a place for them in their political strategy committees.

The divide between unions and Republicans will not be fixed overnight and it won’t be easy at first. But, if we start now to build that trust — change our tone, change our approach and change our mindset — it could make a difference in 2014.


  1. […] When Democrats have a worse record with unions, why are Republicans the enemy? (thebrennerbrief.com) […]

  2. […] When Democrats have a worse record with unions, why are Republicans the enemy? (thebrennerbrief.com) […]

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