Pander Fest ’07

By March 27, 2007Labor Unions

Welcome to Pander Fest ’07, the annual gathering of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department here in Washington. You may recall that in 1981, President Ronald Reagan had just finished speaking to this group when he was shot by John Hinckley.

And, it was fitting that Reagan addressed this group, as they have long been considered the most conservative wing of the American labor movement. Richard Nixon famously plucked one of their own, Peter Brennan, to be his Labor Secretary in the 70’s. This was the core of the “Regan Democrats,” are still much to the right of their public sector brethren.

But when they throw a party — or a convention — you can see the politicians turn out to pander. According to a story by Mark Wegner in yesterday’s Congress Daily PM, the party was kicked off by the Panderer-in-Chief, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who said, “My presentation starts this morning with six words: ‘Thank you, thank you, thank you.'” Good God, man, stand up straight!

He went on from there to “profess support for the [anti-democracy] card check bill and opposition to trade agreements that do not include labor and environmental protractions,” according to the story.

Wegner quotes Reid as saying, “I never voted for a trade agreement and don’t intend to in the future.” Wow, now there’s something to be proud of! Considering that trade agreements open markets to US-made goods — and thus create manufacturing jobs — it’s amazing that Reid would confess to being a job-killer in front of a union audience. Courage like that is in short supply here in Washington, yessirree. He also apparently “made a pitch for climate change legislation” while he was at it. Rule #1: Know your audience.

Somebody should tell Reid that these are the unions that build the infrastructure for oil drilling and are also the ones who build nuclear plants, among other parts of the energy infrastructure. He probably got tepid applause on these . Also, he was so busy using his speech from the “pander to the unions” file that he talked trade to a bunch of construction unions. If it impacts them at all, it would likely be a net benefit, as it is with manufacturing workers. Hey, as we like to say, never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

You can click here to see the rest of the lineup that will go visit the Building Trades while they’re in town. You’ll see more Republicans here than you’ll see at any other union gathering, but they’re still far in the minority. These union folks will hit Capitol Hill all week to pound away on the card check bill.

Don’t forget to click here to weigh in on the other side, the side of democracy. As Harry Reid and the others gather to furiously pander, we need to do the hard work of protecting democracy.