The Republican Party’s recent pro-worker turn has too often amounted to little more than cultural posturing: going after “woke capital” but stopping well short of challenging corporate and Wall Street power as such. As Batya Ungar-Sargon has written in these pages, today’s GOP is a “working-class party without a working-class agenda.” But there are important exceptions to this trend, and few shine as brightly as Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) when it comes to standing up for wage-earners and forging alliances with organized labor.

Over the past few months, these efforts have earned Hawley justified praise—and donation dollars—from the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Most recently, the Teamsters’ political action committee offered $5,000 toward Hawley’s re-election campaign in recognition of his support for striking auto workers, among other labor groups. It’s a rare feat for a Republican lawmaker at a moment when partisanship continues to divide the GOP from organized labor, even as the party under Donald Trump continues to consolidate its support among union households.

Defying progressive accusations that Hawley doesn’t really mean it, Hawley has walked the pro-worker walk. Consider a few highlights: 

  • This month, the Teamsters showered Hawley with praise for being the sole Republican to uphold the National Labor Relations Board’s determination that Amazon amounts to a “joint employer” in the case of its delivery drivers, given the degree of control and surveillance the mega-retailer exerts over their work. And in November, the Teamsters cheered Hawley for co-authoring a letter with Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) reproaching Amazon for mistreating its drivers.
  • The previous month, the Teamsters thanked Hawley for joining striking Graybar Electric workers on the picket line, with Sean O’Brien, the union’s president, telling Fox News that with the senator’s “presence and his support … we settled the strike earlier this week.”
  • Also in March, the Teamsters lauded Hawley for proposing to slap a 100 percent tariff on Chinese electric vehicles made in Mexico—a threat characterized by the Alliance for American Manufacturing as a potential “extinction-level event” for US auto industries and jobs. Hawley’s measure, said the Teamsters, would “deter Chinese automakers from trying to evade US trade laws.”
  • The Teamster likewise warmly greeted a letter from Hawley urging the Treasury to modify a government loan to help preserve union jobs following the bankruptcy of the Yellow Corporation. “We thank Senator Hawley for standing up on behalf of hardworking Teamsters who sacrificed billions of dollars in wages, benefits, and retirement security to keep Yellow afloat for the last 20 years,” said O’Brien

And on and on. Hawley, a contributor to Compact, also hasn’t shied away from calling out the greed of corporate and Wall Street honchos and the eye-watering disparities between executive compensation and the wages of ordinary workers. Last week, for example, he tweeted a Teamster meme noting that the top five executives at Coors had made the same amount as 420 striking workers at a Fort Worth plant, adding in his own words: “Shame on Coors.”

“Hawley’s pathbreaking alliance with the Teamsters is good news for workers.”

The Hawley-Teamster alliance demonstrates that it is possible for Republicans to win labor’s support, provided both camps are prepared to take trust-building steps. For Republicans, it isn’t enough to merely make vague pro-worker noises that amount to so much culture-war vibes. They have to stand with workers on material grounds, as Hawley admirably has. For unions, meanwhile, it likewise means a willingness to privilege bread-and-butter issues over the progressive shibboleths that too often lead the mainstream of the labor movement to act as slavish adjuncts of the Democratic Party. 

Hawley’s pathbreaking alliance with the Teamsters is good news for workers, an exemplar to a GOP with an increasingly downscale voter base, and a win for the nation.

Sohrab Ahmari is a founder and editor of Compact.


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