(CINCINNATI) – When John McCain introduced his running mate Sarah Palin to the country, he mentioned that both she and her husband were union members, and it's something either Palin or McCain bring up at almost every event.
But McCain has had some harsh words for organized labor on the campaign trail, railing against teacher's unions and being a vocal advocate for both NAFTA and the Colombian Free Trade Agreement, which are two trade issues labor unions have long opposed. So why does he bring it up?
Simple politics. It's not hard to see why, politically, McCain and Palin are touting their union connections. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are crucial swing states in this election, and many of the working class voters that both Democrats and Republicans are fighting over belong to labor unions.
But most unions are vocal backers of Democratic candidates, and despite McCain's receiving a few union endorsements, the majority of organized labor is lined up behind Barack Obama. The AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor federation, is spending over $50 million in grassroots efforts to criticize McCain on the internet, through robo-calls, and pamphleteering.
"Gov. Palin was quick to note her husband's membership in the United Steelworkers," said John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO. "Ironically, she has joined the ticket of a staunch opponent of restoring the freedom of other working men and women to form unions and bargain for a better life."
McCain has argued that some unions misuse their members' dues, and that teacher's unions have been an impediment to public education. "Sen. Obama wants our schools to answer to unions and entrenched bureaucrats," McCain said during his acceptance speech in St. Paul last week. "I want schools to answer to parents and students. And when I'm president, they will."
The McCain campaign did not respond to requests to clarify McCain's stance on organized labor or to respond to the AFL-CIO's criticism. But they should not count on the support of the labor union the candidates tout at their campaign rallies – the union that that Todd Palin belongs to, the United Steelworkers, is opposing the McCain-Palin ticket.