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The Corner

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Bob King, UAW President



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“Just look at Wisconsin,” he said. “They” — meaning Republicans — “want to take us back to a time when workers couldn’t stand up for themselves . . .”

This word “workers” is so confusing, and so tricky. Are those Wisconsin teachers and other public employees “workers”? Is a worker anyone who works? Am I a worker? Are you?

Bob King and plenty of other convention speakers have referred to “working people.” Who are they? Everyone who works? People who make below a certain level of income? The term “working people,” I think, is basically a political convenience. And a nonsense term.

In 1980, I believe, there was a wonderful ad for the Republican party in general. A worker (!) on a shop floor looked into the camera and said, “If the Democrats are so good for working people, how come so many people aren’t working?”

I might ask the same question this year: If the Democrats are so good for working people, why are so many people out of work?

When Democrats talk about public employees in Wisconsin, New Jersey, and elsewhere — people who make a quite comfortable and even privileged living, with protection and benefits unavailable to most who work — you would think they were talking about the Harlan County coal miners of yore. Wretched men with half a lung, leaving 28-year-old widows.

How long will the Democrats get away with it? That act is at last wearing thin, isn’t it?

Bob King talked about dark times when “workers” couldn’t “speak with one voice.” Yes, that is one of the glories of unionism: that speaking with one voice. But it is one of the ignominies of unionism too.

Not all union members agree with their leadership, or with one another — about how dues should be spent, for example. Republicans are in favor of a little individual choice, a little individual conscience. Which, of course, union leaders and other Democrats can’t stand and won’t tolerate.

King referred to the Republican nominee as “Romney.” So has Joe Biden, on the campaign trail, I’ve noticed. (He also refers to the president of the United States as “Barack,” a habit that launched a magazine essay of mine.)

From Romney and Ryan, it is always “President Obama,” I believe. And I believe all the Republican convention speakers said “President Obama,” and never “Obama.” If anyone said “Obama,” the media would go nuts — racism, you know. 



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