Wake-Up Call For GOP's "Values" Hypocrites: Unions Are Pro-Family, Report Finds

08/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The latest escapades of such GOP "family values" hypocrites as Sen. John Ensign, and Gov. Mark Sanford, not to mention Rep. Chip Pickering, continue to garner some headlines. But a little-noticed new UC Berkeley study released last week finds that unions, the GOP nemesis, creates dramatically pro-family results for working families.

"As more Americans are struggling to raise and care for their families at the same time they're holding down a job, workplace policies that facilitate a work-family balance are becoming increasingly important. We looked at whether unions make a difference for these families, and it turns out that unionization has a positive impact on key family-friendly policies like family health insurance, paid family leave, and child-care benefits," said Jenifer MacGillvary of the UC Berkeley Center for Labor Research and Education last week, a co-author of the new report, Family-Friendly Workplaces: Do Unions Make a Difference?

As noted by the AFL-CIO Now blog about the report's conclusion and key findings:

"Many (perhaps most) American workers find their "work-life" to be out of balance. Yet as has been the case with virtually all other aspects of employment, labor unions are leading the way in setting new standards. Unionized workers receive more generous family-friendly benefits than their nonunionized counterparts."

Here are a few of the report's key findings:

  • Unions promote compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act. Union members are more likely to have heard of the Family and Medical Leave Act, have fewer worries about taking leave and are more likely to receive fully paid and partially paid leaves.
  • Comparing hourly workers who take family and medical leave, 46 percent of unionized workers receive full pay while on leave compared to 29 percent of nonunionized workers.
  • Unionized workers are 1.3 times as likely as nonunionized workers to be allowed to use their own sick time to care for a sick child, and they are 50 percent more likely than nonunionized workers to have paid personal leave that can be used to care for sick children.

In contrast, GOP officials, with Ensign, Rep. Chip PIckering and Sanford following in the well-worn path of former president George W. Bush, have emphasized fighting gay marriage, supporting prayer in schools, and banning abortion as the keys to promoting family values.

Unfortunately for the GOP, as Maureen Dowd noted on Sunday:

Like cats that have lost their whiskers, the Republicans seem off balance now that they have lost their talent for hypocrisy...Now when Republicans get caught flouting the principles they dictate, they are not able to practice hypocrisy with such impunity.

The hypocrisy over the "family values" professed by these GOP leaders goes even deeper than previously acknowledged. So even as Senator John Ensign scrambles to explain away various payments to his mistress, it's worth remembering that he and other GOP leaders have built their party's fortunes on a few key pillars, including not just "pro-family" morality and, starting in the late 1960s, veiled racism, but also, in recent years, union-bashing.

They've especially demonized the Employee Free Choice Act. In fact, Senator Ensign, the then-chairman of the Republican National Senatorial Campaign Committee, told the Las Vegas Sun before last year's election:

"It's our No. 1 issue to raise money on," Ensign said last week. "It scares anybody who's in business to death."

Indeed, Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson told The Wall Street Journal the union-backed bill was "one of the two fundamental threats to society." (The other, he said, was radical Islam.)

These days, such fear-mongering over unions rings as hollow as the Republican calls to uphold family values. An AFL-CIO source told In These Times for the new labor blog the magazine has launched: "As Republicans and big business use meaningless attacks against legislation like the Employee Free Choice Act, it's important to remember that to working families, family values means having a good paying job that allows for time with family. There's nothing more hypocritical than not supporting working people's freedom to form unions in order to bargain for a better life and more time with their families -- while trumpeting the meaning of 'family values'."

Indeed, the co-authors of the new report, Jenifer MacGillvary of the Labor Center at the University of California-Berkeley and Netsy Firestein of the Labor Project for Working Families, found that unions aided working families on a wide range of family-friendly policies, including expanded health insurance that covers all family members. As the AFL-CIO Now blog reported, "MacGillvary and Firestein also note union members are more likely to have access to resources like child care referrals, education assistance, vacation days and wellness programs."

Union leaders officials underscored the importance of the report's finding as grass-roots political pressure builds on the Senate to pass the Employee Free Choice Act.

SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger summed up what real family values means at a time when the Republicans Party that built its brand on "values" continue to implode.

"Today's report underscores that, at a time when many greedy corporations are cruelly cutting wages, healthcare and retirement security, unionized workplaces continue to promote family-friendly policies that build a strong middle-class," Burger said.

In contrast, it seems sometimes that the only "family" the GOP is helping with its mix of anti-union and pro-Christianity extremism is the elite, unfettered free-market Christian cult-like group, "The Family." Its Washington, D.C. "C Street" residence and church has involved, either directly or indirectly, Governor Sanford, Pickering, who allegedly had trysts there, and Senator Ensign. Rachel Maddow, along with others, has looked skeptically at the group as a cultish, power-oriented church covering up for its members, even as Republican officials told Politico :

Christian lawmakers say Washington prayer and Bible-study groups -- and the secrecy that surrounds them -- provide crucial counseling for their lives in the nation's capital.

"One thing about having members meet with members is they kind of understand what each other goes through and the stresses and the pressures and those kinds of things," Congressional Prayer Caucus Chairman Rep. Randy Forbes (R-Va.), who participates in a small Bible study group on Wednesday mornings. "And one member can tell another member, 'I don't think that's the right thing for you to do.'"

In an interview with the evangelical World Magazine, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) described living at C Street as "one of the best parts" of life in Washington.

Yet Politico also observed, "The trifecta of trysts has made C Street an easy target for charges of "family values" hypocrisy."

That's the real state of Republican family values today. The new report shows where the emphasis on family values actually needs to be:

"As Congress prepares to debate the Employee Free Choice Act in coming months, policy makers should understand that unions have helped improve workplace policies for thousands of working families and could do the same things for millions of families if the Employee Free Choice Act becomes the law of the land," said report co-author Netsy Firestein, executive director of the nonprofit Labor Project For Working Families.

You can read more about the clash between Republicans' hypocritical "family values," and what working families really need, at the new In These Times labor blog, "Working In These Times."