Travis Rowley: Inside the Mind of a Labor Leader

Saturday, February 09, 2013


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Clearly upset with my characterization of government unions and my recommendation that public salaries be tied to the average private salary of Rhode Island workers, President of AFSCME Local 528 Mike McDonald, with a submission to the Cranston Herald, showcased just how emotional and non-computing the union mind can be.

A customary leftist retort, McDonald’s column amounted to a non-response to every point I attempted to make – grounding his response in inarguable platitudes (“[Let’s] roll up our sleeves and work with our state leaders to get R.I. back on track,” and “Together and only working together we will rebuild our economy.”), a frustrated condemnation of my willingness to continue to “push [my] anti-worker agenda to a populace who clearly reject it,” and an expression of personal comfort that my conservative ideas have been “soundly rejected” by Rhode Island voters.

Only the most ignorant brag about democratic victories. What is McDonald applauding other than the misery that has resulted from the Rhode Island Left’s electoral success over the past half-century? Unconquerable debt. High taxes. Burdensome regulation. Skyrocketing unemployment. Yes, This is what democracy looks like!

McDonald should ask Germans what they think of democracy.


The only time McDonald actually made an effort to confront the arguments within my column, he did so by accusing me of “conveniently leav[ing] out the paragraph in the Providence Journal” in which Mike Stenhouse, the director of the RI Center for Freedom and Prosperity, “makes the point [that] the numbers do not necessarily indicate overpaid public employees but perhaps underpaid private sector employees here in Rhode Island, due to a struggling economy.”

The first problem with McDonald’s point is that I have never read the Providence Journal article he referred to, and never referenced or quoted it in any way that would have licensed him to accuse me of dishonestly omitting any information from it.

Yes, I suppose there are millions of excerpts from articles I’ve never read that I “conveniently” left out of my argument. Great point, Mike.

The second problem is that I never contended that public employees are “overpaid,” but only that government unions are a primary cause of the state’s “struggling economy.” Therefore, government unions should be legislatively disciplined by tying public employees’ compensation to the overall performance of the Rhode Island economy.

In particularly, I pointed out that underfunded pension systems, which unions seek to nourish with evermore taxpayer dough – thereby injuring the local economy – are “where much of the state’s current problem lies.” Tying public wages to private wages, I explained, “would offer [government employees] a reason to ensure that their pensions are being properly funded, so that taxpayers aren’t forced to, once again, pick up the slack in the future.”

McDonald only has a point in that, yes, it’s a “convenient” fact of life that you don’t have to mention things that aren’t a component of your case – or that aren’t relevant at all.


“The irony that a staunch conservative the likes of Travis Rowley who repeatedly lobs accusations of class warfare at [D]emocrats would openly advocate for any citizen of our state to receive pay cuts is glaring,” writes McDonald.

The “class warfare” that Democrats employ is one that fosters envy and greed within the hearts of lower and middle income earners in order to get them to support socialist policies. It’s not “ironic” that a critic of this sinister strategy would attempt to rein in government unions by leashing them to the conditions of the economy they have the power to destroy. The issues aren’t even related.

I can only conclude that McDonald doesn’t know what “class warfare” is. Or what the term “ironic” means.

McDonald, however, does go on to accuse me of “attacking working men and women” and having a “deeply seeded disdain” for them after I penned an article that clearly sought to improve the lot of all workers – most immediately, private workers – and explained precisely how government unions lead to a “lowering of wages, a loss of jobs, and the depletion of the middle class.”

One might call McDonald’s smear “ironic.” Or maybe McDonald just can’t read.


The majority of McDonald’s screed is simply a salvo of lofty sentiments and union-worship: “It is the resolve, determination and cooperation between all parties that will see us through this difficult economic time and move R.I. forward.”

How pretty.

The labor movement, according to McDonald, has “worked tirelessly to protect good and decent working conditions…In the labor movement, we are committed to see all workers earning decent wages, receiving good, fair health care, and being given the dignity of a secure retirement….The only way forward for Rhode Island is to reach out and pull our working families up, up to a job with a decent wage, up to a job with respectable and affordable health care, and up to a job that comes with retirement security.”

McDonald’s fluff continued: “We are your neighbors, your friends and your family. We are taxpayers, we are members of the community and we care deeply about our state. We are proud to be a part of the Rhode Island workforce, and we are committed to working towards good jobs for all working men and women throughout Rhode Island.”

It was hardly surprising to see that the bulk of McDonald’s response amounted to the utilization of what the Left views as their failsafe argument: Their good intentions.

I must admit that it is true, though. It is often evident that McDonald and other labor leaders care deeply about the welfare of the average laborer, and work hard to ensure a high standard of living for all working men and women.

It’s just that McDonald sucks at it.

The private sector worker has been suffering for years in Rhode Island, where organized labor has reigned for decades. The malfeasance of union-Democrats has resulted in the near-collapse of the capital city, the rise of the worst business climate in the country, the depletion of public pension funds, the bankruptcy of Central Falls, and the slashing of retirement payments to the city’s retirees.

Yet, according to McDonald, it’s the “ ‘scorched earth’ policies of the right” – my “propaganda” and “anti-worker agenda” – that “will not bring our state back to prosperity.”

Public Workers vs. Private Workers

McDonald is repulsed by my attempt to explain the economic differences between two sets of employees – that “every public employee is also a public expense” – and my anticipation to see “the rumble that ensues when private union workers realize that their ‘brothers in arms’ in the public sector have been taking them for a ride.”

Or, as McDonald describes it, my attempt to “[pit] one worker against another.”

Even within a column that clearly advocated for working Rhode Islanders, all McDonald was able to observe was someone who believes “the working class must continue to be squeezed so the most fortunate among us can continue to enjoy unprecedented wealth accumulation.”

Psst! That’s called “class warfare,” Mike.

But class warfare is the sincere byproduct of the outlook of all cultural Marxists. Leftists believe that the world is divided into economic classes; that the rich exploit the poor; and that someone needs to stand up for the workers. Competition and capitalism isn’t good enough. They need a labor leader (salaried, of course).

In McDonald’s mind, it’s “Solidarity Forever!” That’s all he knows.

As McDonald explained, “What conservatives with an anti-public employee agenda fail to understand is a Rhode Island worker is a Rhode Island worker.”

That’s the level of sophistication that we’re dealing with. A worker is a worker. Only the caged mind of a labor religionist could make such an embarrassingly false statement.

Travis Rowley ( is the author of The RI Republican: An Indictment of the Rhode Island left.






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