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Pack a union card? Hear the snickering?

Duping Union Voters

Turn around. See the guys making fun of you?

It's Republican union-busters.

They think you'll again ditch the candidates your union endorsed and vote for them on the social issues. "It's the Three Gs con job--God, guns and gays," warned Larry Sanderson, a veteran Kentucky union leader.

The old sucker play has an “I” for “immigrants” this year.

Republicans, for the umpteenth time, are fishing for union votes with the social issues bait. They’ve been at for almost 40 years.

Republicans, for the umpteenth time, are fishing for union votes with the social issues bait. They’ve been at for almost 40 years.

Their idea is to dupe working-class voters by hiding the GOP's real agenda—making the rich richer and wiping out unions.

You'd think it would be mission impossible to get working stiffs to vote against their own livelihoods. But with the social issues, it's been mission accomplished for the GOP.

“The great dream of conservatives ever since the thirties has been a working class movement that for once takes their side of the issues, that votes Republican and reverses the achievements of working-class movements of the past,” Thomas Frank wrote in What’s the Matter with Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America.

Published in 2004, the book is as timely as ever.

Added the author:

“Strip today’s Kansans of their job security, and they head out to become registered Republicans. Push them off their land, and next thing you know they’re protesting in front of abortion clinics. Squander their life savings on manicures for the CEO, and there’s a good chance they’ll join the John Birch Society. But ask them about the remedies their ancestors proposed (unions, antitrust, public ownership), and you might as well be referring to the days when knighthood was in flower.”

You could substitute my native Kentucky or any other red state for "Kansas."

The Three-Gs-plus-I flimflam is basically “bait and switch,” wrote Joanne Ricca of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO in "Politics in America: The Right Wing Attack on the American Labor Movement."

The paper was published in 2002. It’s still timely, too.

“The Right needed to build an electoral base to take power,” she explained. A two-prong strategy emerged:

  • “Create issue groups, especially around the gun control and abortion issues, to manipulate voters to support Right Wing candidates against their own economic interests.”
  • “Create a religious front to manipulate peoples’ faith to support right wing candidates.”

The Right understood that its candidates could hardly campaign “openly and honestly on an ideology that is a threat to a majority of the people and our democracy.” So, the Right deliberately manipulated “voters through single issues—particularly abortion, gun control, school prayer, crime and taxes.”

The bait and switch thus “allowed candidates to conceal their real pro-corporate, anti-worker agenda.”

All along, unions have been exposing the Right's social issues fraud. (Most union members still vote for union-endorsed candidates.) Indeed, the Right fears organized labor as its biggest obstacle to success.

Simultaneous with their social issues shell game, Republicans declared holy war on unions.

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“Unions are the most powerful worker-based organizations in our society,” Ricca wrote, adding, "….They can organize effective opposition to the right. Non-union workers never gather together in such a such a way, have the resources to fight for their rights, or work collectively to promote their economic interests.

“Unions can also join with other progressive organizations (seniors, women, civil rights, environmental and consumer) to create a powerful and effective force to challenge and defeat the Right. Unions are the major source of funds to elect candidates who will truly represent the economic interests of working families. Union households vote at a significantly higher percentage than non-union households, so union members have much greater power to decide which candidate will win."

Hence, in addition to pushing a pointedly anti-union legislative program--notably redoubling its campaigns to pass state "right to work" laws--the Right trotted out the social issues to split the union movement. Ricca quoted Neal Knox and Ralph Reed.

Said Knox, a former National Rifle Association bigwig: “[The gun issue] is the one thing that will spin the blue-collar union member away from his union."

Said Reed, who helped start the Christian Coalition: [Issues like school prayer and abortion]...are the bridge that gets you to constituencies that aren't with you on the economic issues."

Not coincidentally, the NRA and Christian Coalition are allied with the National Right to Work Committee, Ricca pointed out.

I remember the first time I saw bait and switch work on union members. It was 38 Octobers ago.

I was a daily newspaper feature writer helping cover a campaign stop by President Jimmy Carter at a United Mine Workers of America coal mine in southern Illinois. If memory serves, then UMWA President Richard Trumka accompanied Carter.

The UMWA, the AFL-CIO and just about every other union had endorsed Carter over Republican Ronald Reagan. (An exception was PATCO—the Professional Air Traffic Controllers.)

Reagan had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in Hollywood and a New Deal Democrat. But he ultimately betrayed his union roots, heeled hard-right and became a Barry Goldwater Republican.

Reagan ran on a reactionary, pro-corporate and anti-union platform while pandering to the Three Gs.

(Reagan paid PATCO for its loyalty by smashing the union when it went on strike. He went on to become the most anti-union president since Herbert Hoover).

Given that the UMWA was backing Carter, I was surprised to spot a few miners with Reagan signs. I asked them why they opposed the president. Their answers dumbfounded me, but I dutifully reported what they said.

“If Carter gets back in, he’ll take away our guns,” one told me. “Reagan’s going to stop abortion and put prayer back in schools,” said another.

Anyway, since 1980, LGBT rights—and now immigration—have become other GOP social issues bugbears.

Sanderson, who is retired but still a labor activist, said he had a ready answer for union members who vote on guns and not on union issues:

“‘You can’t buy a gun if you don’t have a job. You’ve got a good job thanks to your union. And who would love to take away your union? It’s those ‘three G’s Republicans.'”

Meanwhile, brothers and sisters, watch who's sneering at your behind your back, pointing at you and whispering, "sucker!"

And don't kid yourself, the Republicans just want your vote, not your company.

They won't have you over for dinner. They won't invite you to the country club for a round of golf. Nor will they welcome you aboard their yacht or cabin cruiser for a river, lake or ocean jaunt.

Jim Pence, another old Kentucky union guy like Sanderson and me, nailed it with the motto of his feisty Hillbilly Report blog: “Never before have so few with so much promised to take away so much from so many and then laugh their asses off as the so many with so little vote for the so few with so much.”

Berry Craig

Berry Craig