Anti-union in Buena Vista, pro-union in Covington

As long as I’ve been following Ben Cline’s political career, in the General Assembly and the U.S. Congress, one constant has been his open hostility to labor unions.

In the General Assembly he was a fervent defender of Virginia’s anti-union “right to work” law and helped lead an unsuccessful push to enshrine that law in the Commonwealth’s constitution.

In Congress, Cline has supported an effort to impose right-to-work-for-less on workers across the country.

When he was named to the House Education and Labor Committee in 2019, Cline made clear his hostility to the labor movement.

He said, “The Democrats are going to put all kinds of labor union bills through and I’m anxious to stand up for the right of the worker”– as though the interests of labor unions and the interests of workers are at odds. He then explained what he really meant: “I don’t support forced unionism.”

But Cline really made his contempt for organized labor unmistakable in a speech on the House floor in 2020 denouncing the Protect the Right to Organize (PRO) Act, which would restore some balance to federal labor laws that make it all too easy for employers to thwart union organizing and to avoid dealing with the unions chosen by a majority of their workers.

On Labor Day 2022 in Buena Vista, Cline did what he always does on Labor Day in Buena Vista: emphasize that the only right he supports for workers in the right not to join a union.

But this time his Democratic opponent in the 2022 election, Jennifer Lewis, called him out for the union-basher he is.

So it was fascinating to watch Cline’s change of tone when interviewed at a Labor Day event that afternoon in Covington.

“Both cities [Buena Vista and Covington] have had long traditions of celebrating working man, working women, working families and the union effort. You know, unions have been important here in Covington, unions have been important in Buena Vista, have a history of providing important gains for working families.”

Wow, Congressman. What could possibly have changed your attitude toward unions in the course of one day? Could it have been your opponent’s stinging speech?

But then he added:

“[I]t’s important that we protect what working families have achieved so that it’s not taken away by more government, more regulation and more taxation.”

The fact that the labor unions he just praised have long supported laws that protect workers, both union and non-union, does not trouble him.

That’s the Ben Cline we know and don’t particularly love.

Cline joins the meltdown over Biden’s speech

Like many Congressional Republicans, Congressman Cline denounced Preisdent Biden’s Thursday speech in Philadelphia calling out Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans.

Biden said:

Now, I want to be very clear, very clear up front. Not every Republican, not even the majority of Republicans, are MAGA Republicans. Not every Republican embraces their extreme ideology. I know, because I’ve been able to work with these mainstream Republicans.

But there’s no question that the Republican Party today is dominated, driven and intimidated by Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans. And that is a threat to this country.

Was it a scathing speech in parts? Of course. But what exactly did Biden say that was incorrect about the most extreme and dominant elements of today’s Republican party (or the Trump party, as the former president’s son thinks it should be called instead)?

What did he say that was worse than anything that “our great president Donald J. Trump” (Cline’s words) ever said?

Relax, Congressman. If you don’t think that any election Trump loses is rigged; if you don’t consider the January 6 rioters to be patriots; if you don’t think violence against the government is justified; Biden wasn’t talking about you, or about everyone who has ever voted for Trump. Do you really think he was?

To Cline’s discredit, he did everything he could to cast doubt on the election of Joe Biden as president in 2020. He joined a majority of Congressional Republicans in voting not to certify the election and has refused to put the blame for the January 6 insurrection where it clearly belongs: on Donald J. Trump.

But to Cline’s credit, he posted this on Facebook as the pro-Trump mobs were storming the U.S. Capitol and brutally assaulting police officers on January 6, 2021:

So, Congressman: now that Trump has promised full pardons to the January 6 rioters “with apologies to many” if he becomes president again, you must feel pretty foolish.

And all you can do is whine about BIDEN’S speech?