Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) on Wednesday night compared the relationship between business owners and workers to a combative wrestling match between a "giant" and a "midget" — a word many consider to be a slur.
Johnson was reacting to the vote by the Michigan legislature in favor of a so-called "right-to-work" bill that would give workers the right to choose whether to join a union or pay union dues. While the bill would not ban unions, Johnson said the change would be unfair to workers. In a lengthy analogy, he compared workers to "midgets" dozens of times.
"What happens when you put, in a cage fight, a giant in with a midget?" Johnson began. "Well, the midget will not win the fight, I'm going to tell you that. Why? He just doesn't carry enough weight to do so."
He said workers are put in an unfair situation given that they help the "giant" companies, but have little power on their own.
"They need those midgets, they need the midgets out there," he said of the companies. "They need the workers to actually produce the goods or service that is traded in return for the money, which strengthens the giant."
He said that only collectively do the workers have a chance to bargain with corporations.
"With no weight classes in this employment relationship, where the employer is the giant, and the worker is the midget, how do you go about making it a fair fight?" he asked. "Well, that's where you put the midgets together. You put 30 midgets in with the giant and the midgets then have a chance, collectively."
He said the National Labor Relations Act helped equalize the fight between workers and companies.
"So, that is how the situation has unfolded here in America," he said. "The midgets get a chance to speak with one voice to the giant. The midgets collectively have the ability to stand somewhat equal to the giant.
"The giant, wanting to avoid the fight, decides to speak eye to eye with the midgets, the workers, and work it out to where everybody can win."
But he said the Michigan vote and other developments are threatening this progress.
"And they stand to, despite the fact that the midgets helped them up ... now they're going to crush the midgets," he said of the companies.