One surprising takeaway from the Service Employees International Union’s gathering this week at the Denver Convention Center is that the union has a “GOP Advisory Committee.” And its stated aim is to reach out to Republican voters, as well as to “seek out and promote pro-worker Republican candidates who are responsive to their working family constituents,” according to Dee Ives, a Wisconsin member of the advisory committee.
“If you listen to the extremists on either side, you would think that SEIU and the Republican Party have no common interests and in fact are mortally opposed to each other,” said Ives in an article on the SEIU convention website, “It Takes Both Red and Blue to Make Purple.”
That list of extremists would have to include SEIU president Mary Kay Henry. Anyone listening to Henry’s address to purple-clad Tuesday delegates would be forced to conclude that the SEIU and the Republican Party have no common interests and in fact are mortally opposed to each other.
Henry’s 45-minute broadside was aimed at driving a wedge between the vast majority of Americans, or “the 99%,” and “the 1%,” which is apparently comprised solely of Republicans, including GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
“The gap between the rich and everyone else grew because of a 40-year coordinated attack by the right wing to take from the 99 percent and give to the 1 percent,” said Henry. “The 1 percent is trying to dismantle any form of worker organization that can resist their agenda.”
It wasn’t clear from her speech what Henry meant by a “40-year coordinated attack,” but if right-wingers are behind it, they need some new coordinators. The conservative movement can take credit for some political victories since 1972, such as the Reagan presidency and the 1994 and 2010 Republican House takeovers, but the right has hardly dominated, given that during that same period Democrats have elected three presidents and held most of the congressional majorities.
The one constant during those four decades? Union membership has continued to plummet, no matter what the tilt of the political landscape. Henry cannot acknowledge that traditional labor unions may have outlived their usefulness, and in fact now act as a drain on much of the economy. Instead, she has to find a villain to blame for the decline of the labor movement.
That’s where “the right” comes in. Never mind that the Republican Party was nearly moribund post-Watergate, or that the Democrats held both houses of Congress and the White House for years during the Carter, Clinton and Obama presidencies. As far as the SEIU leadership is concerned, labor’s woes are the result of an insidious right-wing plot.
“These are not random acts,” said Henry. “We are seeing the culmination of a 40-year coordinated plan energized by a Supreme Court decision that allows the 1% to buy an unfair tax system, to finance a relentless attack on all of us and all of our communities, to drain our public education system and to dismantle and destroy workers organizations.”
The message of the “GOP Advisory Committee” appears to be that Republicans are welcome in the SEIU, as long as they support automatic payroll deductions, collective-bargaining rights, and tax increases over budget cuts. In other words, as long as they’re Democrats.