April 2012

From the Officers
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A Fickle and Frustrating GOP Field

As the Republican nomination contest continues to roll on, most candidates can't trip over each other fast enough to blast unions, working families and the agencies and laws that protect them.

Ahead of Super Tuesday March 6, Newt Gingrich slammed Rick Santorum for his reluctance to support a national right-to-work amendment, which was heresy to the former House Speaker, who has called for defunding the National Labor Relations Board.

Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney, the self-proclaimed son of Michigan who scorns President Obama's rescue of the auto industry, said the NLRB was "stacked with union stooges selected by the president" who are hell-bent on destroying businesses and hurting working folks. And Ron Paul continues his quixotic campaign calling fair-share dues check off "unconstitutional" while touting credentials from the National Right to Work Committee.

Of all the contenders, Romney, who offered to bet another candidate $10,000 during a debate, is starting to come across like the one who loathes working people and unions the most.

Except when he doesn't.

In recently circulated video of the candidate speaking on the eve of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, the biggest job of his career, Romney praised the efforts of Salt Lake City IBEW Locals 57 and 354 for wiring 500-foot, mega-wattage Olympic Rings on a mountainside overlooking the city.

"The work was done by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers … they worked up there, they put on the snow shoes, they treaded up there to help us," Romney said. He even said, "Thanks, President Ed Hill."

Romney's flip-flops boil down to a simple truth. They like us when they need us. But when they don't, they throw us away.

The conventional political wisdom is that this election will be about jobs and the growing gap between the haves and the 99 percent. But our nation is slowly rising out of the recession. As the U.S. auto industry rebounds and more construction projects kick off, that gives Romney and the other candidates heartburn. They now must convince the very workers they lambaste as being "coddled by their unions" to rally round their "dump President Obama" campaign. Just when many of us thought social "wedge" issues were drying up in the presidential race, they came roaring back.

The Republicans spent much of the primary season arguing about issues like abortion, gay marriage, birth control and the separation of church and state. Of course, these are important topics that informed citizens should be knowledgeable about. But are they distracting us with these controversies because they know that their jobs plans are illusions? You decide.

Regardless of how we may feel about any of these divisive issues, we have to dig deep and soberly evaluate who stands with us as union men and women, and who stands in our way of holding on to our hard-won, middle class lives. We have to honestly ask ourselves if any of these candidates has a plan that would make us — individually, and as a nation — more fiscally sound and fairly compensated four years down the line.

Romney's remedy for our nation's economic problems is to slash taxes on greedy corporations, promote more so-called free trade agreements and make project labor agreements on major government construction projects a thing of the past. His vision is of a low-wage work force without the tools to successfully negotiate better standards of living.

Romney and the other Republican candidates have repeatedly gone on record opposing everything that we stand for — from fair wages to having a voice in the workplace to a shot at a decent retirement. They're good at whipping up emotion — but when people vote purely out of frustration and without careful, reasoned analysis, bad things happen.

This GOP slugfest is unfortunate, because it overshadows a bevy of local and state races that will shape everything from our city halls to our governors' mansions to Congress. We have to get involved, stay energized and pay attention at all levels.

In the meanwhile, let's not forget who is likely to wind up being at the top of the ballot in November. Romney might like you when he needs something built right the first time — but beyond that, you're persona non grata. They all like us when they need our votes and can hoodwink us away from the more pressing kitchen-table issues of family economics.

But would any of them like us as trade unionists on Day One as president? I don't think even Mitt would like to make another $10,000 wager on that one.

Edwin D. Hill
International President

Salvatore J. Chilia
International Secretary-Treasurer