Paul Ryan is With Unions on One Lone Issue (It Affects His Family, Of Course)

It probably wouldn't surprise you to learn that Paul Ryan, like many or most Republican politicians, has not always been a big supporter of unions. What might come as more of a surprise is that sometimes Ryan actually has been union-friendly, specifically construction union-friendly.

One of the laws building trades unions care most about is the Davis-Bacon Act, under which federally funded construction projects must pay the prevailing wage in an area. And Paul Ryan has repeatedly voted to protect Davis-Bacon, even as he supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's assault on public workers and has accumulated a 16 percent lifetime average on the AFL-CIO legislative scorecard (the 16 percent of good votes are overwhelmingly on Davis-Bacon).

Suzy Khimm explained Ryan's anomalous support for construction unions last year:

Both Ryan's supporters and detractors point to his family ties to the construction industry to make sense of his position. His great-grandfather established Ryan Incorporated Central in 1884, and the company is currently run by his cousins. Ryan Inc. Central—which has been a signatory to the International Union of Operating Engineers since 1966—once employed Ryan as a consultant. Like other companies using unionized labor to carry out public projects, his family firm would suffer a big blow if Davis-Bacon were repealed, as federal contractors could drastically underbid the firm.

A good vote from a Republican is still a good vote. But when you compare Ryan's votes on this one issue, you have to wonder if his votes are only incidentally union friendly, and are more geared at protecting the profits of his family firm. Because otherwise, the stray pro-union statement notwithstanding, the fact is that Paul Ryan wants to undercut the livelihoods of construction and other workers in myriad other ways—seeking to gut Medicare and Social Security, voting against workplace safety bills and financial reform and equal pay and Trade Adjustment Assistance and more.

Ryan's votes to protect the Davis-Bacon prevailing wage requirements help millions of construction workers. But his hero, Ayn Rand, would be disgusted with him if helping workers was his motive in those votes. She'd be proud, on the other hand, if his motive was his own family's profit.