As the race to midterm elections heats up, the defining issues that politicians will run on are becoming clearer. In a special Florida election this month to fill the seat of late congressman Bill Young, Republican candidate David Jolly won by campaigning against President Obama’s Affordable Care Act (better known as Obamacare). It appears that Obamacare will be a large force in future campaigns.
There is one issue, according to The Center for Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, that will take precedent over Obamacare in the upcoming elections: labor unions.
“We need to protect government workers from having their paychecks looted by unions—we need to pass laws like they did in Wisconsin saying if they want your money, they have to ask you for it,” says Norquist.
Norquist argues that Republicans assumed that private sector unions were on the way out and that nothing could be done about public sector unionization - until recently. Republicans control the executive and legislative branches in 24 states and "they can change the rules on public sector unionization,” he says.
According to Norquist, the popularity of private sector unions is also shifting.
“For the next three years unions have a chance to stabilize and get a little stronger," he says. "The reason is that Obama has put a very aggressive, union-favoring majority on the National Labor Relations Board-- they make the rules and they’re the umpires. They facilitated and tried to cheat to make the UAW win in that race in Chattanooga. They changed the rules to their own advantage and you’re seeing an uptick in unionization across the south."
Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform runs an anti-union affiliate, Center for Worker Freedom, which fought the campaign to organize a Volkswagen factory in Chattanooga, Tennessee by the United Auto Workers. His group organized billboard and radio campaigns to “inform workers of the cost of the UAW and the cost of organized labor.” He plans to continue his efforts in future campaigns.
Jeff Hauser, political media lead at the AFL-CIO, calls Norquist’s comments "inane" and the product of being in a “right-wing insular world.”
“Norquist has clearly never read the National Relations Act or taken a labor relations class,” says Hauser. “He doesn’t understand how unions work. They are controlled by their members, they’re democracies and nobody is forced to join a union. Norquist’s claims are ideology hiding the fact that the Koch brothers are trying to buy the American public. For the last decade the U.S. has tried the Koch method and the results are very clear: higher inequality.”
Norquist also claims the UAW ran a corrupt organizing drive by sneaking representatives into the plant disguised as workers. The UAW denies these claims.
The UAW is currently appealing the Chattanooga vote based on claims of right-wing groups interfering in the election.
According to the UAW, “The campaign included publicly-announced and widely disseminated threats by elected officials that state-financed incentives would be withheld if workers exercised their protected right to form a union.”
Just 6.7% of private-sector workers are unionized in the U.S., down from 16.8% in 1983.
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