« The West Wing: 4-for-4? | Main | Palin & the structural protections of federalism »

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Sarah Palin and Union Politics

In all the hubbub about the Republican VP pick, I have seen little on something that I thought was quite remarkable: the populist rhetoric in McCain's introduction.  Here are some excerpts from his speech:

I'm very happy today to spend my birthday with you and to make a historic announcement in Dayton, a city built on hard, honest work of good people.  Like the entire industrial Midwest, Dayton has contributed much to the prosperity and progress of America, and now, in these tough, changing times, after all you've done for our country, you want your government to understand what you're going through, to stand on your side and fight for you. . . .

Friends, I've spent the last few months looking for a running mate that will who can best help me shake up Washington and make it start working again for the people that are counting on us. . . . And it's with great pride and gratitude that I tell you I have found the right partner to help me stand up to those who value their privileges over their responsibilities, who put power over principle, and put their interests before your needs. . . .

The person I'm about to introduce to you was a union member and is married to a union member and understands the problems, the hopes and the values of working people, knows what it's like to worry about mortgage payments and health care and the cost of gasoline and groceries . . . . She's fought oil companies and party bosses and do-nothing bureaucrats and anyone who puts their interests before the interests of the people she swore an oath to serve.

Many have suggested that McCain selected Palin to help win over Hillary Clinton voters -- middle- and working-class folks who live in the heartland and are feeling the brunt of our economic woes.  And indeed, if you were reading the above speech without any other context, you'd probably think it was a Democrat talking.  McCain seems willing to take his campaign on a much more populist turn.  He's going after the union vote.

The real question, in my view, is whether policy will follow rhetoric.  Will McCain-Palin advocate for greater restrictions on trade?  Will they adopt a more restrictive position on immigration policy, or will they drift back towards McCain's more pro-immigration views?  And given that Palin is a former union member, and her husband is a Steelworker, will they support the Employee Free Choice Act?

Posted by Matt Bodie on August 30, 2008 at 12:51 AM in Current Affairs | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Sarah Palin and Union Politics:


I too am aproud USW union member, actually a vice president in my local. Go to youtube and search videos titled union busting. It will amaze you to hear testimonies from former company paid union busters receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars to help thwart the union effort while the same company refuses to raise their wages 1%. We just represent a voice for the working class people. The reason companies are so against us is simple...look at the CEO salaries....ours made 15 million last year but he can't afford to furnish a good pension or health care for the people that got him that salary. I understand my union's stance on Obama...I don't feel the same....various reasons. I feel the USW and other unions should work harder with the rep. side to help them see our view rather than always being strict democrat with blinders on. I take an oath to never turn my back on one of my brothers or sisters....Obama was never a member...neither was Mccain...but his VP was and her husband IS one of my brothers. Support your unions...they are not the beast that the media makes them out to be.

Posted by: Dennis | Sep 4, 2008 9:36:15 PM

WE ARE NOT FOOLS, BUT FREE THINKERS! I am no political analyst, so my words are simple. I am personally not a union member, but it is what keeps our family finances afloat. My husband is a union carpenter, and we live on his income alone. We are voting for McCain-Palin for a number of reasons. We feel that the democratic campaign overall is just the opposite of all we value and hope for in this country. If that means we jeapordize his work as a union carpenter, well then so be it - but I don't believe it to be true. We can see a whole line of new work coming from McCain's presidency with his mission of energy independence. It is the power plants in and out of our state that are keeping most union workers employed here in the midwest. I actually am hoping that McCain will pull for all workers to get fair pay and care so that unions will become unnecessary. One of the locals is actually funding a republican campaign in hopes of support. The times they are a changing! Let's not see our union brotherhood as strictly a democratic campaign. We are free thinkers, right? Remember what being a union is about - the people - people who want a choice, fairness, and a growing economy. That is what McCain-Palin wants. There is obviously much more to say - but mostly I just want you to know there are more union republicans than you may think, even before Palin was chosen, and we've all really thought this one through. Pray, Prioritize, Palin.

Posted by: Melissa | Sep 4, 2008 2:42:20 AM

Can the USW tell me why this information was NOT posted on their site ? If you " google it " it is everywhere BUT on the USW site. Can anyone spell " cover - up ?

Posted by: John Smith | Sep 3, 2008 2:46:57 PM

Being a union member myself, I cannot understand how someone could vote for Obama. He will not pledge allegiance to the American flag. What has happened in America when someone like this could even be considered. That is only one out of many problems that I have with him.

Posted by: Donnie | Sep 2, 2008 5:31:39 PM

I wonder if Todd Palin will continue his union membership, or exercise his Beck rights, so his dues will NOT be used to oppose the election of his wife as Vice President?

I'm also curious as to which union she was a member of. I've not been able to find out so far.

And Mr. Craig, what you describe as "threats, intimidation and insincere promises" and employer "dirty tricks" might be called by some to be "telling both sides of the story." It all depends upon whose ox is being gored. Of course, EFCA would merely allow unions to engage in (behind closed doors) the "threats, intimidation and insincere promises" that you decry when engaged in openly by employers, and would remove from employees the protection of making their wishes known by a secret ballot.

Unlike the unions supporting the (misnomered)"Employee Free Choice Act," most Americans don't fear a free and robust debate.

Why do unions?

Posted by: James Young | Sep 1, 2008 11:06:51 PM

The reason for EFCA and the elimination for a secret ballot is because EMPLOYERS have in the past used threats, intimidation and insincere promises to coerce workers into voting against a union during the period between the cards being signed and the NLRB authorizing an election. This has been going on for years but employers don't want you to know about this. It is so bad that most unions won't even bother petitioning the NLRB for an election unless they have upwards of 70% of the cards signed because they know that employers are going to play these dirty tricks. So what EFCA would do is eliminate the need for an election; once 51% of the cards are signed the bargaining unit would have union representation. It may not be a perfect system but it's a hell of a lot more fair than what has been going on for years. You need to be more worried about intimidation from your employer than you do from any union.

Posted by: Del Craig | Sep 1, 2008 8:46:42 AM

i don't see being anti-EFCA as being anti-union and anti-worker. even as a former republication (currently libertarian), i believe that workers should be able to form unions and collectively bargain with their employers. i, however, do not support the EFCA. the main reason being the elimination of the ability for employers to request a secret ballot election. i see it as a way for union organizers to coerce employees into supporting the formation of a union, though it may not be what they truly want or believe. because of the open nature of the check card process, it is known to all employees who did and didn't support the union. i can see a situation where those who would not necessarily support or vote for a union, would sign the check card for fear of repercussions from those union supporting employees. the anonymity of the secret ballot election protects workers who don't see things the way other people do from any repercussions from not voting pro-union. the question that comes to my mind is, why would union forming parties care about a secret ballot election when the majority of workers signed check cards? if everyone who signed the check cards were in full support of the union, having a secret ballot election would be a non issue, since the outcome would be almost assured. the only thing i can think is that the formers of the unions know that some workers do feel coerced by the check card process and they want to eliminate their ability to register their true vote and feelings in a secret ballot election. in this respect, i see the EFCA as being very anti-worker. i have no problem with other portions of the bill, but if i were a representative or senator, i would have to oppose the EFCA because of the secret ballot/check card issue alone.

Posted by: ceanf | Sep 1, 2008 12:46:50 AM

It's quite a two-faced irony that Sarah's household could benefit from her husband's union job while she was PTA Mom and then sign on now to help McCain knock unions flat. It's almost as much an irony as her being a teetotaling Pentecostal (Assembly of God Church) and now teaming up to help career beer dealers, the McCains, steal the country for corporations. I feel really sick about this.

Posted by: Dan | Aug 30, 2008 2:45:57 PM


Interesting post. The issue you left out was NLRB appointments. As you know, the NLRB under Bush has taken a wild swing to the right/anti-union side, reversing a number of long-established precedents. Is there any chance a McCain NLRB will make a significant move back to the middle? Color me skeptical.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Aug 30, 2008 10:06:40 AM

Paul -- thanks for posting Gerard's statement. It's interesting that the union was so quick to react. I wonder if Obama will put folks like Gerard on ads soon, to counteract the Republican turn to populism.

To me, the economically populist rhetoric is fascinating, because it threatens the GOP alliance between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives. The alliance is based on the notion that the Bush tax cuts can coexist with creationism. But many of the economic conservatives might like to see more libertarian social policies, and many of the social conservatives would like to see NAFTA repealed. So is McCain's speeach purely a rhetorical move that can be exposed, to some extent, as hypocrisy? Or will the ticket move to beef up its populist credentials with some economic populism as well?

You can bet a lot of lobbyists in DC will be looking very closely at that question.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Aug 30, 2008 9:52:41 AM


This is a gimmick and the unions themselves are not fooled. Consider this statement from the Steelworkers re: the nomination of Palin:

Statement by USW International president Leo W. Gerard on John McCain's selection of Sara Palin as his running mate:

"It is important to realize that while the governor's husband is a member of a union, this does not automatically qualify her for an on-the-job training program to become a heartbeat away from the presidency. And while her husband is one of 850,000 dues-paying members of the steelworkers union, it does nothing to absolve Sen. McCain of his long history of anti-union sentiment and anti-worker actions, including continuously pushing an anti-working family agenda that:

* Opposes giving workers the right to bargain collectively;

* Jeopardizes retirement security by privatizing social security;

* Further threatens job security by signing more job-stealing trade deals without the regard to human rights and environmental abuses; and,

* Erodes the ability of working families to secure quality health
care by taxing their employer -provided coverage for both active and retired workers.

McCain's choice is another example of his poor judgment and his desire to play politics as usual. McCain-Palin is not a team that works for working families. The first-term governor's record is thin and divisive. And John McCain has a life-long record of being for the rich and powerful. No union card can hide that any more than Ronald Regan's union card did."

And now my own comment: no way will she support the EFCA.


Posted by: Paul | Aug 30, 2008 1:56:26 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.