(The Hill) — The subject of labor unions and picket lines led off the second GOP primary debate Wednesday night in California, just a day after President Biden set a new precedent by joining striking auto workers in Michigan.
The first candidate to speak, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), walked back his incendiary comment from earlier this month — “If you strike, you’re fired” — which he said earlier this month on the campaign trail in reference to the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike that’s currently underway in Detroit.
“Obviously, the President of the United States cannot fire anybody in the private sector,” Scott qualified on Wednesday night.
But Scott remained critical of unions.
“Joe Biden should not be on the picket line,” he said.
The National Labor Relations Board, which administers U.S. labor law, is now investigating a charge against Scott filed by UAW president Shawn Fain that was prompted by Scott’s comment.
As unions are seeing a resurgence in popularity among Americans, even as union membership has fallen to all-time lows, other GOP candidates were quick to sound sympathetic to the plight of workers dealing with elevated prices over the past two years and skyrocketing wealth inequality over the past several decades.
“I do have a lot of sympathy for the workers … People are going through real hardship in this country,” businessperson and GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy said.
His sympathy did not extend as far as “union bosses,” with whom Ramaswamy said he did not “have a lot of patience.”
Former Vice President Mike Pence also took a shot at union bosses, while former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who has referred to herself as a “union buster” in the past, talked about Biden’s appearance on picket lines in Michigan.
Haley called for more tax breaks for businesses, many of which are set to expire in 2025. Extending the business tax breaks in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is arguably the top economic priority for Republicans in Congress.
In that piece of legislation, the GOP canceled the tax deductibility of union dues, hammering home the party’s long-established anti-union stance.