'Total joke': Josh Hawley's bid to win labor support just backfired

microsoft, 'total joke': josh hawley's bid to win labor support just backfired

Sen. Josh Hawley rallied with striking UAW members last year. They're still backing his likely Democratic opponent, Lucas Kunce. AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann; Drew Angerer/Getty Images

  • GOP Sen. Josh Hawley has positioned himself as a populist ally of workers.
  • That's included rallying with striking auto workers with the UAW last year.
  • But the UAW just backed his likely Democratic opponent, Lucas Kunce, while calling Hawley a "joke."

In recent years, Sen. Josh Hawley has sought to position himself as populist Republican and a staunch ally of organized labor.

That's included rallying with striking auto workers in his home state of Missouri last September, courting support from labor unions, and even voting against a recent GOP-led effort to overturn a new rule from the National Labor Relations Board.

Despite those moves, the United Auto Workers are endorsing Democrat Lucas Kunce over Hawley as the Missouri Republican seeks reelection this year.

"Josh Hawley calling himself pro-worker is a total joke. There is only one candidate in this US Senate race who has earned the trust of Missouri autoworkers, and that's Lucas Kunce," said Fred Jamison, President of the UAW Region 4 Midwest States Cap Council, in a statement first shared with Business Insider.

A spokesperson for Hawley did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

Kunce, a self-styled populist Democrat who also ran for Senate in 2022, is likely to prevail in the August 6 primary. Observers generally consider the race to lean Republican, though organizers are hoping to put a constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights on the ballot this November — a move that could drive Democratic turnout.

"I'm honored to have the support of UAW in this race," Kunce said in a statement to Business Insider. "The only way we'll put Missouri and America first in the next generation of industry is by investing in and empowering workers like them. In the US Senate, I'll fight like hell for them. Let's pass the PRO Act and Make Shit In America Again!"

Hawley has made some pro-worker moves in recent years, including voting to give seven extra days of paid sick leave to rail workers during a looming strike in December 2022 and supporting a $15 minimum wage for workers at companies that generate more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

The Teamsters, one of the country's largest labor unions, contributed $5,000 to Hawley's reelection campaign in April. They also gave $45,000 to the Republican National Committee — along with the same amount to the Democratic National Committee — and have seemingly considered endorsing former President Donald Trump.

But Hawley previously supported right-to-work laws, and he remains opposed to the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, a top priority of organized labor. The Democratic-backed bill is designed to strengthen workers' ability to form unions.

"I'm not a huge fan of the PRO Act," Hawley told Business Insider in September. "My worry would be that it might, you know, hurt workers more than it helps."

He went on to say that "we can have a debate about" the bill, but that the "real question" is whether certain jobs will remain in the US at all.

"If you want to talk about how to divide up a shrinking pie, I suppose we can do that," said Hawley. "But why don't we think about how we get more pie for labor in this country?"

Hawley has also criticized public sector unions, which account for slightly less than half of all union members in the US and include teachers and police officers.

"I just think that public sector unions for a long time have held government hostage, held vital government services for people hostage, and that's different," Hawley told the Kansas City Star in October. "But when you're talking about private sector unions that are trying to get folks bargaining power, these multinational corporations, particularly in the last 30 years, they're really less and less tied to this country and less and less tied to American workers."

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