Collective bargaining has no place in representative democracy and public employee unions have an "insidious relationship" with Democrats, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said Tuesday.
DeMint weighed in strongly on behalf of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who's been locked in a protracted battle with public employees over legislation that would strip their unions of most collective bargaining rights.
"It's a bigger issue than people think, and it's something that I'm going to work a lot on, because I really don't think that collective bargaining has any place in representative government," DeMint said on WVOC radio.
Many Republicans in Washington have publicly backed Walker in his battle against public workers. Democrats in the state Senate have fled the state to deny a vote on the labor reforms, and have vowed not to return until they win concessions from the GOP governor. The situation was a flash point in a larger struggle between labor rights and ballooned state deficits.
DeMint said public employee unions enjoy an "insidious relationship" with Democrats, because the state workers are working to support lawmakers who favor maintaining benefits for those workers.
"That is a sad statement from someone who has no respect for people who work for a living," said AFL-CIO spokesman Eddie Vale in response. "He should probably take this up with Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower."
Polling on the situation in Wisconsin suggests that a majority of Americans disagree with efforts to limit collective bargaining rights. Sixty percent of adults said in a poll on Tuesday they oppose taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions.
DeMint also said the fate of unions and the Democratic Party were tied together, arguing that President Obama's reelection was dependent on support from labor.
"The unions are the most powerful political group in the country today … Their power in politics is unprecedented. And without the unions, the Democrat Party fades away," DeMint said. "The president is completely dependent for his reelection on the unions, and so are the Democrats."