Free Bob Corker!

In a virtuoso variation on the “poor little rich boy” and “persecuted Koch Brothers” memes, U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) has taken to the pages of that well-known tribune of the oppressed, the Wall Street Journal, to whine that the United Auto Workers are trying to take away his free speech rights by asking for a do-over of a union certification vote at the VW plant in Chattanooga, one free of public intimidation by Republican elected officials.

As you may recall, workers at the VW plant narrowly defeated a unionization effort after a sustained campaign by Corker, Gov. Bill Haslam, and various GOP state legislators to threaten retribution against VW in the form of withdrawal of state incentives if its workers dared spoil their job-creators’ paradise by allowing the snake of collective bargaining to cross the border. These solons weren’t expressing an “opinion” about unionization; they were using public policy levers to undermine the provisions of the National Labor Relations Act that seek to make such votes as free as possible, in pursuit of the radical new national Republican line of treating unions as inherently illegitimate.

If Corker wants to exercise his “free speech” rights on this subject, he should have the guts to promote legislation in Congress repealing the NLRA and other collective bargaining laws, and try to make America union-free as a matter of public policy. The idea that Tenneessee and other southern states should rely on the No Unions Here! label as a comparative marketing chip would, after all, consign American citizens elsewhere to the slavery of collective bargaining and the indignity of union-negotiated wages and benefits. As a U.S. Senator, Corker should aim higher.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.