A ‘first shot against organized labor’

A ‘FIRST SHOT AGAINST ORGANIZED LABOR’…. It seemed pretty obvious this week that much of the conservative opposition to the automotive-industry rescue package was built on union-busting. MSNBC’s “Countdown” got a hold of an internal Republican memo that highlighted this point rather explicitly.

Countdown has obtained a memo entitled “Action Alert – Auto Bailout,” and sent Wednesday at 9:12am, to Senate Republicans. The names of the sender(s) and recipient(s) have been redacted in the copy Countdown obtained. The Los Angeles Times reported that it was circulated among Senate Republicans. The brief memo outlines internal political strategy on the bailout, including the view that defeating the bailout represents a “first shot against organized labor.” Senate Republicans blocked passage of the bailout late Thursday night, over its insistence on an immediate union pay cut.

Alex Koppelman and Mike Madden had a report in Salon this morning, noting that even the Bush White House didn’t try to undermine UAW the way Senate Republicans did. “It was all about the unions,” one senior Democratic aide said. “This is political payback for lots of things, and probably even more to come.”

Labor officials told Koppelman and Madden that they expect Republicans to keep taking shots at unions whenever they can. “This cynical stance they took last night — they’re willing to jeopardize 3 million jobs so they could gain some advantage in their war against unions — is appalling,” said Bill Samuel, the chief lobbyist for the AFL-CIO.

Indeed, the LA Times noted today that conservative Republicans are intent on striking against “an old enemy: organized labor,” and the right hopes to send a message to the country. “If the [United Auto Workers], which is perceived as one of the strongest unions in the country, can be put under control, that may send a message across the whole country,” said Michigan State University professor Richard Block, a labor relations expert.

Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) acknowledged that “some” Senate Republicans opposed the legislation to support the auto industry simply because they didn’t want to help the UAW. These GOP lawmakers, Voinovich said, “think they have no use for labor.”

It offers a helpful contrast. Right now, Democrats in Congress and the presidential transition team are crafting an agenda to help respond to the financial crisis, while Republicans in Congress are using the financial crisis to undermine unions.

It’s a very odd time for GOP lawmakers to invest so much energy in ensuring American workers receive less money. And yet, here we are.

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