The Republican Party’s 2012 platform, adopted at its convention in Tampa, Fla., is so radical it would have the government “turn its back on its citizens” and trash every-thing from veterans’ health care to food safety inspections, a top union leader says.

As a result, millions of people would be harmed, adds J. David Cox Sr., the new president of the American Federation of Government Employees. But that’s just one of many sharp differences between the GOP on one side and workers on the other.

Cox issued his analysis after perusing parts of the platform revealed in advance from various sources. The Republican National Committee was one: It put parts of the platform up on its website temporarily before the convention began.

Besides the domestic programs Cox said the GOP would wreck, the platform, along with GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s 59-point economic plan covers other issues of interest to workers. Together they paint a picture of a nominee and his party that, with a few exceptions, sharply opposes positions taken by labor.

The platform even lauds GOP governors who “saved their states from fiscal disaster by reforming their laws governing public employee unions” – a subtle endorsement of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s abolition of collective bargaining there.

Two of the few areas of agreement are supporting construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, which construction unions favor but some other unions – notably the Steelworkers and the Transport Workers – oppose, and on China’s currency.

Construction unions favor Keystone because it would bring an estimated 20,000 high-paying union jobs to workers now suffering 12% “official” unemployment: The pipeline’s sponsor, TransCanada, signed a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) with unions for its building many years ago. USW and TWU agree with environmentalists Keystone would greatly harm the environment by importing “dirty oil” from Canadian tar sands.

Both labor and Romney say China’s artificially low currency gives its exports an unfair advantage and costs U.S. jobs. The platform calls for declaring China a “currency manipulator” on Day #1 of a GOP presidency, opening the way to sanctions.

The GOP platform and Romney disagree with labor on virtually everything else:

On one key domestic issue, a top one for the Coalition of Labor Union Women, the platform repeats a goal from 2008: A complete ban on federal funding for abortion in almost all cases – with no exceptions for rape or incest.

The platform also opposes U.S. ratification of the UN convention (treaty) on protecting women’s rights. It advocates importing more “guest workers” into the U.S. for farm work, while proposing “greater scrutiny of overseas labor contractors to prevent imposition of usurious terms” on temp workers they send to this country.

The GOP platform also states “Russia should be granted permanent normal trade relations, but not without sanctions on Russian officials who have used government to violate human rights.” Legislation to let Russia into the World Trade Organization, without any connection with labor rights, is pending in the relevant GOP-run House committee dealing with trade. The foreign policy section of the platform is otherwise silent on trade pacts, including one being negotiated with Pacific Rim nations.

Romney promised the anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors that he would revoke Democratic President Barack Obama’s executive orders encouraging PLAs on federally funded construction.

The platform supports anti-Hispanic immigration laws modeled on the draconian Arizona measure, SB1070. The U.S. Supreme Court threw out most of that law earlier this year as an infringement on a federal area, but left its provision letting local law enforcement personnel stop and question people who look different. They cannot arrest and deport the drivers, however, without going through extensive checks. Unions opposing the law, led by the Service Employees, say it leads to racial profiling and SEIU criticized the GOP for adopting the Arizona law in its platform.

 “State efforts to reduce illegal immigration must be encouraged, not attacked,” the GOP platform says. It also opposes the Dream Act for youngsters who enlist in the military or in college. Unions oppose the racist laws, and back the Dream Act.

Romney’s own economic plan also splits sharply with workers on labor rights:

Romney flatly opposes the Employee Free Choice Act, labor’s top legislative cause. EFCA – doomed by a Senate GOP filibuster – would have helped level the playing field between workers and bosses in union organizing drives and in bargaining for first contracts. He also goes farther, by backing specific GOP legislation pushed by right wing Southern Republicans to outlaw voluntary “majority sign up” or card check recognition of unions at workplaces.

Answering a survey question from the Fraternal Order of Police – an answer not included in his economic blueprint – Romney opposed legislation ordering states that now ban collective bargaining with government workers to bargain with workers’ unions. He said he opposes any extension of collective bargaining rights for public workers at all (see separate story).

Romney’s economic plan also includes a push for so-called “right to work” laws nationwide, a key cause of the Radical Right and business for more than 50 years. The Boston Globe also reported Romney backs a so-called “paycheck protection” law, virtually banning workers’ voluntary political campaign contributions.

Romney has proposed extending “school choice” vouchers to parents of low-income schoolchildren nationwide, for use in private as well as public schools. Right Wingers see vouchers as one way to strip public schools of money and unionized teachers of their jobs, while funneling funds to religious (or segregated) schools.

Cox, whose union is plurality-Republican, said the real harm from the GOP’s platform is in its total anti-government attitude, which extends beyond trashing federal workers to trashing the programs they run.

“GOP leaders continue to promote the belief that government is to blame for all of the nation’s ills and that the solution lies in taking a hacksaw to federal programs that everyone in this country relies on,” he said.

Romney “would arbitrarily downsize the federal workforce, dismantle Medicare and Social Security, outsource our national security to profit-driven private sector companies, reverse all steps by the Obama administration to protect consumers from a repeat of the financial crisis that began under the Bush administration, and end vital regulatory functions that ensure the safety of our air, water, homes and worksites.

“The GOP platform makes ‘government’ out to be a dirty word, and that is a shame. Government employees run the best health care system in the world, treating returning soldiers at Veterans Affairs (VA Department) medical centers across the country,” adds Cox, a VA worker from North Carolina.

“Government employees ensure millions of Social Security checks get processed and delivered to senior citizens every month. Government employees inspect meat, poultry and eggs as they move from the farm to your dinner table, so you know they’re safe to eat. Government employees guard our borders and our prisons so the streets are safe, and they support our war fighters at home and abroad.

“Without proper staffing and funding, these government services would simply cease to exist, leaving millions of Americans high and dry. It’s hard for me to imagine a country that would turn its back on its citizens, but that’s exactly what this GOP platform proposes to do,” he concluded.



Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.