By Farron Cousins
October 26th, 2012 10:00am
The Republican Party has, historically, been the anti-union party. But it wasn’t until their convention this year that they decided to finally add their anti-union positions into their official party platform. Below is a transcript of an interview conducted by Mike Papantonio with Salon.com and In These Times contributor Josh Eidelson, where they discuss the anti-union history of the GOP.
Mike: Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. He’s a GOP rock star. Anti-union, anti-worker, anti-teacher, anti- fireman, anti-policeman, anti-government worker, anti-union, private sector, public sector, rock star. This is the new Republican. Mitch Daniel, one of them. The new rock star. I’ve got Josh Eidelson with me, investigative journalist with Salon.com and in these times, there’s nothing unclear about what their platform is. It is to destroy all unions in this country. Whether it’s through Davis Bacon or whether it’s through PLAs, whatever it is.
Josh: That’s right. The platform in 2008 was right wing. It was anti-union, but in four years they’ve changed to now being a party according to the platform, that sports a federal so-called right to work amendment to being a party that wants to end Davis Bacon, end project labor agreements, make it illegal for companies and unions to agree to union recognition without going through the broken labor board process, wants to partially privatize the Post Office. They’ve moved much farther to the right and they’re doing it because they think they can get away with it.
Mike: Let’s talk about them one at a time. Davis Bacon, most people don’t even know what that is, explain what Davis Bacon is.
Josh: Herbert Hoover signed a law which obligates the federal government when it’s funding or contracting on construction projects to follow basically a prevailing wage. That the government should not be undercutting high road construction companies. Contrary to what some people think, it doesn’t obligate the government to do business with union workers, but by creating a wage floor, it makes it easier for union workers and union construction companies to compete with other low road cheaper companies in getting that work.
Mike: Follow Herbert Hoover did that, for God’s sake. Okay, project labor agreements, how does that work? They’re trying to do away with that. Explain what that means.
Josh: Project labor agreement is an agreement on a project, and in some cases there will be multiple companies involved; multiple groups of workers or unions involved. It may be nonunion, but a project labor agreement establishes certain standards about what the working conditions and wages will be. The President, one of the things he did right was signing an executive order encouraging project labor agreements on construction companies and the Republicans have been crying foul, that this is discrimination against cheaper companies with worse working conditions. It’s not all the Republicans though. You have dozens who actually voted against doing away with these protections for wages in the construction industry.
Mike: It prevailed. This is the new party. The platform also approved this idea of reigning in Obama’s OSHA standards to reverse his national labor relations board moves to basically slow him down on anything that affects the worker. This is about workers everywhere because we know if you affect wages by having an organized union and you increase wages, you increase benefits, you provide health care, provide pensions, provide days off, everybody benefits from that. This is an attack not just on unions. This is an attack on workers across the board. I don’t know how else you could sell this and right now it is the big sale. This is the Paul Ryan. This is Mitch Daniel. This is Bobby Jindal. This is Scott Walker. This is the Republican Party.
Josh: Right, this is the Republican Party and if there was a theme at the convention, it was talking about how everyone is a couple generations from being working class and how honorable it is and how much they supposedly respect people, but you’re not allowed to resent rich people. You’re not allowed to resent so-called success, and what the platform makes clear is they don’t want you to organize to do anything about it. They just want you to hope to get a promotion.
Mike: This is also the platform. You ought to see the State versions of this platform. The national platform, for example, it doesn’t come right out and say we’re anti-intellectual, don’t teach critical thinking in school, but you go to a place like Texas, they actually have it on their platform. You may not teach students how to be critical thinkers in school. That is the new Republican Party. They make it very clear on the abortion issue, “Look, there’s no question here, if you’re raped, if there’s incest involved, that doesn’t mean you have a right to get an abortion.” There’s nothing equivocal about all this, is there, Josh? You can only conclude there’s nothing equivocal and they’re taking their stand and they think they can win with this stand. There’s no doubt about it in my mind.
Josh: They think they can and even the language in 2008 from the platform that said, “Yes we do acknowledge that workers have a right to organize.” That’s gone. They took that out and instead made room for language about how if you’re a governor, if you’re a state rep, you should be following in the footsteps of the Republicans who’ve gone after collective bargaining. That’s their position.
Mike: If you are a liberal out there, progressive and you think, “Oh, this guy’s such a bad candidate. There’s no chance of Obama losing.” You better rethink that. I have tried so many cases and when I see a defense lawyer come out on something that I’m going into trial believing this is… He could get into trouble if he doesn’t win on this, but when they double down on it. You know what that’s told me? It’s told me that that defense lawyer, that character that’s defending this corporation has focused and refocused that issue and believes he can win on that issue. That’s what that tells me and as I’m watching this, if you don’t believe they have focused… Can they win with attacking and gutting unions? Can they win with attacking women and minorities? Can they win? If you don’t believe they’ve focused it and concluded that they could, you’re kidding yourself.
Josh: Right and part of what this is evidence of, it shows how far right the Republicans have moved, but it also shows on the union issue the political vulnerability of labor unions. It shows the way that as private sector unionization has gone down, it’s become easier to make union especially, but not only in the public sector. To make them into punching bags, and in some places they’ve gotten away with it. In Wisconsin they have suffered setbacks, but he’s still in office.
Mike: Josh, Salon.com… And I think I’ve actually seen you write on this as kind of the three prong attack. First of all, sabotage the economy. The Republicans starved the states with, take the money away from states to where there’s no liquidity, keep saying Obama’s responsible for that, store up $3 trillion in corporate holdings rather than putting it back into the economy. Sabotage the economy and then second of all spend $8 billion dollars, which they’re set to spend by super packs right now. Go to the swing set states, confuse the low information people, outright lie to them, tell the lie again and again. No one checks the facts. Then the third part, of course, is to suppress the vote in places like swing states; Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida. We know that goes on. Jim Greer in Florida admitted that yes, Florida was doing that. He was involved in trying to suppress African American votes. Mike Turzai, Pennsylvania House Leader, “Yes, we’re going to suppress those votes and Romney’s going to win.”
Those are the three prong attacks I’ve seen it written about in salon. It’s great material and that’s why they have this level of confidence, Josh. That’s the only reason I can conclude that they would come out and say, “We’re going to make American unions history.”
Josh: It’s looking like a close election and the biggest albatross Obama has is that the economy isn’t better.
Mike: Josh Eidelson, Salon.com. Thank you for joining me, okay?
Josh: Thank you very much.