Union Members to Palin: Where Do You Stand?

09/08/2010 05:18 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Edwin D. Hill International President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers

In an attempt to rally rank-and-file union members behind the Republican Party in advance of November's midterm elections, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin recently took to the Internet to appeal to union members to oppose President Obama and congressional Democrats.

To my hardworking, patriotic brothers and sisters in the labor movement: you don't have to put up with the scare tactics and the big government agenda of the union bosses. There is a different home for you: the commonsense conservative movement.

She even cited her and husband's former membership in my union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Now former sister Palin is more than welcome to try to sell the GOP's agenda to our membership -- we count Democrats, Republicans and independents among our ranks. But let me offer her a piece of sales advice.

If there is something our members hate -- and we've done polling on this -- it is overheated rhetoric and knee-jerk partisanship. They value their vote and want to know where candidates stand on the issues that matter the most to them, their families and communities -- not just to folks like me in Washington. This year it's all about jobs, jobs, jobs.

If Gov. Palin expects to get union members to support her endorsed candidates -- and our locals have been more than willing to endorse GOP candidates if they are better on our issues -- we need to see the details. But besides denouncing the Employee Free Choice Act -- the bill that would remove many of the existing obstacles to workers exercising their right to join a union -- and Obama's rescue of the auto industry, which saved thousands of jobs, there isn't much else in her appeal that tells us what she and her friends would do to help "good blue-collar Americans" if they took power.

So in the interest of clarity, I hope Gov. Palin tells us more about where her "commonsense cause" stands on the following issues:

Made in America: American manufacturing once dominated the world economy. Now, you're lucky to find a Stars and Stripes made in the U.S.A. This nation has already lost one-third of its manufacturing output. And from Ohio to North Carolina, that has meant millions of lost jobs -- jobs that once brought middle-class prosperity to communities across the country.

"The good blue collar Americans" Gov. Palin speaks of want our lawmakers to get serious about making things here at home again. We need real incentives for corporations to build and hire in the U.S.A. We need Congress to stop passing lousy trade deals and to get serious about cracking down on Chinese currency manipulation, which amounts to an unfair global advantage.

Where does she stand on the "Make it in America" agenda being promoted in Congress? The plan would eliminate tax-breaks for companies that offshore jobs and promote investments in new technologies that would enhance manufacturing here at home.

One of Gov. Palin's endorsed candidates, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) has voted for nearly every job killing trade deal that has come before her since she was elected, while voting against expanding the Trade Adjustment Assistance program, the federal lifeline for workers who have lost their jobs to global competition.

And let's not forget Palin-endorsed California senatorial candidate Carly Fiorina, the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive (best known for giving more than 30,000 workers the pink slip), who in 2004 told a group of Silicon Valley executives that "there is no job that is America's God-given right anymore."

After Fiorina's speech, Sidney Weintraub, a political economist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the San Francisco Chronicle: "Labor unions have battled 'offshoring,' which Fiorina calls 'right- shoring.'"

How does that fit in with Gov. Palin's call for "creating good jobs with good wages?"

Safety on the Job: As a wife of a former oil field worker, Gov. Palin surely knows the safety concerns that plague so many working families each day. Our members and their families want to know that their safety isn't taken for granted.

But we can't always count on the goodwill of employers, as we saw from the mine tragedy in West Virginia last spring. We need to make sure the government is doing its job of upholding basic safety standards in the workplace.

So how could Gov. Palin endorse someone like Rand Paul in Kentucky, who recently said mine safety regulations are unnecessary?

Equal Pay for Equal Work: I'm sure Sarah Palin wouldn't have put up with being paid less than her male co-workers. So why did she dump $5,000 on Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley's re-election campaign? Isn't she aware that he was one of the leading opponents of the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which was signed into law by Obama in 2009? The law reversed a Supreme Court ruling that prevented Ledbetter, a Goodyear Tire employee with nearly 20 years on the job, from suing for back pay after discovering she had been paid less that her male co-workers for doing the same job for years.

Disgracefully, only five GOP senators voted for the bill -- one of them being Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who just lost her GOP primary. No word on how her victorious opponent Joe Miller -- another Palin friend -- would have voted on it, but it's something many real IBEW sisters would like to know.

The people that Sarah Palin once called brothers and sisters and shared union membership with would like to get some serious answers.