Paul Dame: A changing relation with labor

This commentary is by Paul Dame, chair of the Vermont GOP.

As we celebrate Labor Day it’s a good time to reflect on how the Republican Party’s relationship to Labor has changed in recent years.

It used to be convention wisdom that Labor Union members were a lock to vote Democrat. This had the dual effect of Republicans surrendering in the fight for their interests and Democrats beginning to take them for granted, and moving on appeasing other constituencies.

Paul Dame, chairman of the Vermont GOP

But as Democrats took a hard turn against honest hard-working coal miners and oil drillers with restrictive green energy policies that put many union jobs in danger. President Joe Biden himself claimed on the campaign trail that he would eventually phase out these kind of jobs by eliminating the industries completely. Many workers lost what used to be a reliable ally.

In addition Democrats started pushing social policies that further alienated them from their middle-class workers and the values their families shared. Over the years our government schools have moved away from preparing the next generation with the skills needed to thrive in a changing global economy, and instead have put their focus on a number of more controversial topics centered around the sexuality of these minors. This has further driven the divide between workers and the Democrat Party.

But Republicans will stand to gain nothing if we do nothing. While workers are seriously evaluating their previous commitment to Democrats, Republicans have an opportunity to engage with a demographic that we have ignored for too long.

Republicans will not win solely on a message that Democrats are bad. We have to make the case that workers will be welcomed and supported by Republican candidates, and within Republican organizations.

Republicans can not maintain a pure anti-union stance. We have to realize that the same way traditional Republican business owners form trade associations to protect collective interests against a more powerful government, workers have the same rights to form unions to protect their own interests from a more powerful business. The freedom of association is protected by the First Amendment, and it applies equally to trade unions and labor unions.

At the same time being pro-worker does not always mean being pro-union if the union’s interests are at conflict with its workers. Many workers are beginning to realize some of the things Republicans have known for a long time; that there is a big difference between the honest workers who make up most unions, and the bureaucrats who make up union leadership. Nowhere was this more apparent than in the 2020 election when many rank and file union members were strongly allied with President Trump, but their union leaders were publicly endorsing Biden. So workers know that in some cases, especially with larger national organizations, they may be getting leaders representing their own interests, instead of the interests of the workers.

Last year, the Vermont AFL-CIO took the bold step of becoming the first public sector union in the country to pass a resolution in support of gun rights, an important issue for every Republican. This came despite pressure from other labor organizations, like the VT NEA, to withdraw their support. This is an important signal to Republicans that unions are not the Democrat monolith that they used to be, and we ought to be open to dialogue and engagement where we can to find common interests. We certainly will not find common ground on every issue with every labor group – but there has never been a better time to engage and find the common ground where we can.

I believe that most hard working Vermonters, whether they are union members or not, are still concerned with the same things our candidates are fighting for; affordability for everyday expenses like gas and groceries, public safety measures to protect our families, and making it easier to build housing so we can attract the workforce we need to help take the weight off of our currently over-burdened workers. These are some of the basic ways that the Vermont Republican Party is working to advocate for workers who are more than just their job.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/Blake Patterson

2 thoughts on “Paul Dame: A changing relation with labor

  1. Oh, I forgot to mention this point:
    There are many rural areas where the ONLY decent jobs around are the jobs with the state, or with the single unionized factory in town.. so those people feel they have few choices.
    They work where they can work and they vote told to vote pretty much.
    And this right here is what lays out the conditions that then create what we call “Democrat Plantations”.
    These controlled people usually don’t have the means or education to move away to better themselves.
    They are stuck.
    Again, that this happens is another failure by elected Republicans.
    I mean the bottom line is that people shouldn’t have to feel as if they are forced to vote a certain way for their very survival..
    And I am sure there are many people in Education that certainly will tell you they don’t dare vote Republican..
    It would appear today that if people sign up to be in a union, they have just given up a whole lot of their Freedom– and this is pretty UnAmerican.

  2. I know MANY people that work for the state- be it the highway department, teachers, social services, if we get into talking about politics, they will come right out and say “I’m a Republican but I vote Democrat because of my job”.

    I think that young people with families, or older people with retirement coming up, people that are newer and don’t have a lot of seniority- they are the ones that don’t want to get laid off or not get any raises they can vote in..
    I get this. They are voting to bring more money into their own household.
    But it’s not right.
    These people might be voting to protect their jobs and make more money- but they are also voting for an agenda too- one that today has this nation in a complete disaster.

    The Republican party misses a giant opportunity here, and frankly, a Responsibility, to educate these voters so they have a full understanding of what they are doing.
    If the Republican party was successful in doing this, then it wouldn’t be going on, and it is, a lot.

    (Frankly, there are now so many RINOs around, I doubt they even care that this goes on)

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