10/04/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Sarah Palin, Explain Yourself, or Stop Using the USW as a Prop

When presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain introduced Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his intended vice presidential running mate, those of us in the lower 48 learned that her husband, Todd Palin, not only was a champion snowmobiler and commercial fisherman but also a steelworker.

At the press conference, Palin trotted him out, stressing his steelworker credentials. Here's a good union man, she emphasized.

But his United Steelworker card doesn't include an automatic auxiliary membership for her. Or her running mate at the top of the Republican ticket, McCain, whose record on labor issues would require some serious penance before he could ever earn a union card.

John McCain opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, which would enable workers to collectively bargain and secure contracts with corporations more easily, like the employment contracts CEOs demand to have with corporations. McCain has jeopardized retirement by championing Bush's privatization scheme for social security. McCain has voted for every American-job-killing free trade deal, without regard to human rights or environmental standards. And he has proposed, instead of providing health insurance for all Americans, a plan to tax the insurance of those lucky enough to still have employer-provided coverage.

McCain has characterized Palin, 44, as his political soul mate. How he determined that is unclear since he met her only twice before selecting her, and her resume for VP is paltry, at best. She served two terms on Wasilla City Council and two terms as Wasilla Mayor. At that time, Wasilla had about 5,000 residents. She also served as chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, a job she quit in less than a year. She ran for lieutenant governor and lost. While seeking the governor's post, she said she supported the bridge-to-nowhere, a $398 million span that would have linked Ketchikan, Alaska to an island of approximately 50 residents across the Tongass Narrows.

Then, after Congress squelched the bridge, she said, as she put it, "No thanks," to the "earmark." Despite all that, when Congress offered Alaska about half the money from that "earmark" that John McCain claims to have so opposed, Palin took it and spent it on other road projects.

While mayor, she lowered property taxes, before she raised sales taxes. She hired a Washington lobbyist to secure some of those McCain-dreaded "earmarks" for little Wasilla, a task it succeeded in doing. She left the town with millions in debt and a dispute that ultimately cost it $1.3 million to settle over ownership of land on which she wanted its $15 million sports complex built.

Even the New York Times in an editorial Wednesday questioned McCain's judgment in plucking Palin from a state with a population (670,053) roughly the same as the twin cities' where the Republicans are meeting: "If John McCain wants voters to conclude, as he argues, that he has more independence and experience and better judgment than Barack Obama, he made a bad start by choosing Gov Sarah Palin of Alaska."

The workers of America cannot afford bad judgment after eight years of economy-crushing, debt-creating, Bush-Cheney. Unemployment, the national debt, inflation, home foreclosures and gas prices are all rising at demoralizing rates, while Bush and McCain continue to proclaim the economy is basically strong and any recession is all in workers' heads, just some sort of psychological problem. Maybe that's true -- if you're a multimillionaire like Bush and McCain. Or if you've got seven homes in which to hide from the reality of everyday American life like McCain.
Ms. Palin needs to stop trotting out her husband as an exhibit until she explains her positions on workers' issues. Just exactly where does she stand on the Employee Free Choice Act?
Her family has benefitted from her husband's ability to be part of a labor union. Workers in labor organizations earn higher wages and are more likely to have pensions and health insurance.

Because he works for BP and is a member of the USW, which collectively bargained a good contract for workers at BP, Todd Palin earns a good wage and has good health insurance. The Employee Free Choice Act would make it easier for other Americans to join unions and earn better money and obtain health insurance. Polling shows that 70 percent of Americans support for the Employee Free Choice Act.

Inquiring minds want to know, Ms. Palin. Where do you stand on Employee Free Choice? Where do you stand on privatization of social security? Where do you stand on job-killing free trade?
Are you with McCain - and against workers - on these issues? If so, you need to stop using your husband's membership in the USW as a prop, because then his union card cannot possibly cover up your or John McCain's worker-savaging positions.

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