April 1, 2011- Many cops and firefighters have thrown their allegiance to the GOP for years – union members who frequently stray from labor’s longtime support for Democrats.
A host of new Republican governors is changing all that.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and others took aim at the GOP’s most powerful labor antagonists but ended up hitting some of the party’s best friends too — leaving public-safety unions fearful this year’s attack on teachers might easily be next year’s attack on them.
It’s a political shift that could have significant repercussions, and not just because these right-leaning union members vote for Republicans in sizable numbers. Angry cops and firefighters make for bad PR – especially after Republicans under President George W. Bush aligned themselves so successfully with the heroes of 9/11 in the years since then.
Chuck Canterbury, the national president of the Fraternal Order of Police, said his members are “shocked” by the turn of events.
“Who are these evil teachers who teach your children, these evil policemen who protect them, these evil firemen who pull them from burning buildings? When did we all become evil?” said Canterbury, whose union endorsed Bush in 2000 and 2004 and John McCain in 2008.
He is traveling the country to rally FOP members to rise up against anti-labor laws in their states or in support of their colleagues in other states. “There is going to be a backlash,” said Canterbury, a former county police officer in South Carolina. “We are going to hold them accountable.”
Already, rank-and-file police officers and firefighters who long viewed themselves as separate from the rest of the movement are carrying picket signs, signing petitions and standing side-by-side with their labor brethren.