Massachusetts AFL-CIO President Steven Tolman's Labor Day Op-Ed
In 2008, Scott Brown sought and received the endorsement of the AFL-CIO in his campaign for re-election to the state Senate. Brown did not try to hide his Republican leanings, but he did stress his support for the issues important to the working people of Massachusetts. He mentioned he was a member of two unions -- dating back to his time as a magazine model.
But after two short years in the U.S. Senate – manipulated by extremist Republican colleagues – Brown has changed. He has become much more K Street, Washington D.C. than Main Street Wrentham. He is Wall Street’s favorite senator.
His votes are now consistently against the interests of working class men and women, and he prioritizes the issues of the privileged class. He favors the doubling of student interest rates, which benefits his wealthy banker friends, who donate generously to his campaign. He doesn’t vote to extend unemployment benefits for out of work Americans until the Senate approves tax breaks for millionaires.
This is not the Scott Brown we thought enough of to give him our endorsement four years ago. This time around, he has refused to acknowledge our requests for his positions on important issues. As a former colleague and friend for nearly a decade, I worked closely with him on a number of important matters. Party affiliation did not matter to him then. Now it clearly does.
Do not believe what you are hearing about Brown being an independent voice. He has turned his back on his Massachusetts constituents, regularly siding with the archconservative leaders of his party to the detriment of those of us back home.
In literally his first action as a US Senator, he voted to block consideration of a nominee to the National Labor Relations Board who had a strong record of protecting the rights of workers. In fact, Brown and the Beltway’s extreme right-wing Republican machine maneuvered to have him sworn in to the Senate far earlier than he was scheduled simply so he could be the deciding vote to halt the nomination. When you couple that with his campaign pledge to be the 41st vote against the Affordable Care Act, and the backlog of federal appointments the Republicans are holding up, you have to wonder if his priorities start and stop with being an obstructionist.
There’s no reason to believe he would change if he’s elected to a full term. Thus far, he has voted as his party tells him 76 percent of the time. And Brown’s very first vote next January if he is to prevail in November? It would be to elect US Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky as Senate Majority Leader. This is the same McConnell who said two years ago, on the eve of the mid-term elections, that his top priority for the country was seeing President Obama lose re-election. It wasn’t creating jobs or making the American dream more realistic for millions of us. It was winning an election. And this is the person Brown looks up to as a leader?
The leader we need standing up for the people of Massachusetts in the US Senate is Elizabeth Warren. Warren’s record on protecting the middle class is beyond question. She created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in the wake of the financial disaster Brown’s Wall Street donors helped to create. She has pledged substantial investment in public infrastructure projects that will not only put hundreds of thousands of Americans back to work, but improve safety and education at the same time. And she is steadfast in her support of President Obama’s plan to repeal the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest, allowing nearly every non-millionaire American to enjoy a tax break without adding to the national debt.
In each of these instances, our Republican senator stood with his party’s leaders and against the taxpayers of Massachusetts.
Four short years ago, Brown couldn’t wait to boast to us about his union membership and his support for the issues important to working men and women. Today, he is focused more on listening to the extreme right flank of his own party, and working on the matters important to Wall Street titans.
Labor Day is traditionally recognized as the unofficial start of campaign season. Let’s make this the last one in which Scott Brown is an incumbent US senator.