Cain for Selective Collective Bargaining, Not “Collective Hijacking”

COMMENTARY | Just a day after he told reporters in Wisconsin that he supported collective bargaining, presidential hopeful and scandal besieged Herman Cain made the ability to do so selective. That he said it at all will undoubtedly be used against him by other candidates in the rush to assert their dominant conservativism, but his application of conditional support also indicates that the Atlanta businessman is attempting to walk the razor’s edge between overall public opinion and playing to the Republican Party base. In fact, after a campaign event in Iowa, CNN reported that Cain said he was against “collective hijacking.”

On Monday, Cain gave a sometimes incoherent and rambling interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel where he said he was supportive of workers’ right to collectively bargain. On Tuesday, he wanted to clarify.

“Let’s clarify what I said,” Cain insisted. “I am against collective hijacking.”

Collective hijacking is — in Cain’s own words — placing “so many demands on a state that it is going to force it to go bankrupt.”

Putting himself on the side of workers unions and collective bargaining supporters would place Cain diametrically opposite the current GOP stance on the issue. In Wisconsin, Republican governor Scott Walker’s refusal to collectively bargain with state workers’ union representatives led to a weeks-long demonstration at the state capital. In Ohio, recent GOP-led legislation curtailing state workers collective bargaining powers was voted down by the public in a general election.

Cain further clarified his position, stating collective bargaining should be done the “right way.”

“Make sure you get this point in,” he said. “It should not be mandatory. That is one of the problems that some states have. It should not be mandatory and they have a right to do so.”

What Cain means by collective bargaining not being mandatory is not altogether clear. Collective bargaining delegates represent unions and organizations, selected usually be the memberships of such to speak for them in negotiations for wages and benefits (in this case, state governments). Both sides have the ability to attend negotiations or not. Governments can also refuse to negotiate at all — with individuals or with a collective delegate, so Cain’s words are confusing in that they entertain the idea that states do not have the right to negotiate in the manner they wish. Thus far, GOP-led states have shown a propensity to attempt to eliminate the collective bargainers’ ability to represent their constituents in negotiations, oddly enough attempting to democratically remove the strength-in-numbers negotiating power of democratically selected representatives of workers’ interests.

And Cain seems to be attempting to work both sides of the issue. He is for the workers’ right to collectively bargain, a populist position (most recently affirmed by the people of Ohio). At the same time, states should not have to meet with collective bargainers (something they already enjoy) if they do not see it in their best interest (which they never do, as authoritative dictation eliminates the need for negotiation). Calling bargaining that pushes struggling states too far “collective hijacking” only makes the collective bargaining delegates seem greedy and uncompromising and shades the issue in favor of the state governments.

In essence, Cain did not clarify inasmuch as he clouded the issue. What Cain said was that he was supportive of collective bargaining. But when later faced with his own words (and knowing that the Republican Party is generally opposed to collective bargaining), he tried to clarify and said he was for collective bargaining as long as the state governments were for it and that they shouldn’t have to deal with collective bargaining if they didn’t want to.

That Cain was for collective bargaining was Cain the populist politician. That he is against “collective hijacking” is Cain the businessman politician. That he conflated the two indicates that he wants to appeal to the general, more popular voter that backs collective bargaining while also appealing to the more labor rights restrictive, pro-business conservative voter that would like to see unions rendered ineffectual.

So where does Herman Cain really stand on collective bargaining?

Depending on the day, apparently wherever he thinks he has to in order to garner a vote.

People also view

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *