Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why Republicans Should Engage Labor Unions

A dalliance. A brief liaison. A flirtation. That might be all that is needed to spur union rank and file towards the Republican camp in the upcoming election year.

Big Labor has a problem. They face squeezes from the Left and the Right. Conservatives want to check their power in the private and public workplace. They see Big Labor's goals as a burden upon the economy and what is left of the manufacturing sector.

The Left presents even more challenges. Its "Occupy" movement embraced Big Labor, then protested the economic development that labor needs to survive. The proposed pipeline from Canada to the Gulf would employ steelworkers, Teamsters, and who knows how many others who pay their union dues. Big Labor understands that these worker intensive projects form their lifeblood in a fashion that windmills and solar panels do not. Richard Trumka a few weeks ago angered the Right by threatening violence against the Tea Party. Now he angers the Left with his grumbling recalcitrance against their hypergreenie movement.

As I said last week, the American economy is capable of paying off our debt and social programs that have been vetted to prevent inefficiency and fraud. We can also handle some of the desires of Big Labor. It is interesting that we were able to pay for all of this until the 1970s when more and more regulations served to hogtie manufacturing and energy production. Now we need not go back to the bad old days of rampant pollution, but we also need a reasonable balance between the needs of conservationists and industry.

Were I a GOP presidential candidate, and Newt Gingrich is likely the only candidate with the brass cahones to do so, I would invite the AFL-CIO in for a discussion, much as he did with Herman Cain. They can discuss where conservatives and Big Labor can realize shared goals of expanding production and prosperity while clearing the air over shared anxieties about each other. Would they come away in perfect agreement? Probably not. But traditional Big Labor liberals have more shared interests with conservatives than they do with the Left.

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