Republicans in Congress and state legislatures have spent the past decade gutting workers’ unions, refusing to pass laws to protect LGBTQ employees from workplace discrimination and denying working-class Americans higher minimum wages.

So we were surprised when a group of eight Florida Republicans called a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol last week to proudly take a stance for workers — well, the unvaccinated ones — targeted by President Biden’s upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees and contractors and large private businesses.

They weren’t perhaps as proud as they were to stand behind the new standard bearer for the GOP and anti-vaxxers, Gov. Ron DeSantis, who’s suing the Biden administration.

Those Republicans’ true intention was to stick it to what they described as Biden’s tyrannical socialist intervention — even though vaccine mandates have been part of American life for over a century and have been upheld in court many times. Perhaps their point wasn’t to support workers’ rights, but it was nice to see them for once take such a stance.

We didn’t miss the irony that Republicans and some unions are in lockstep on the issue of employer mandates. These are strange bedfellows considering how the Trump administration gave directives to restrict the role of unions in federal agencies.

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The unions representing Miami-Dade County’s public employees have rejected Mayor Daniella Levine Cava’s request to add to their contracts a requirement that unvaccinated employees get tested for COVID-19 or show proof of vaccination, the Herald reported. In liberal New York, unions representing teachers and municipal workers sued the city over its public-school mandate.

Perhaps congressional Republicans’ next step will be to strengthen unions to help them fight government intrusion and “woke socialist corporations” — Isn’t that the oxymoron of the year? Not in a million years, considering the GOP’s dislike for organized labor, which they also like to call socialist.

Or they could finally pass the 2021 Equality Act, which would protect LGBTQ workers from discrimination in several areas, including employment. After all, if it’s none of your boss’ business whether you received a COVID vaccine, it shouldn’t be their business to care about your sexual orientation or identity.

The U.S. House passed the bill largely along party lines in February, with the Republicans who attended the Oct. 28 news conference voting against it, including Miami-Dade’s Carlos Gimenez and Mario Diaz-Balart. The bill now sits in the U.S. Senate, where it’s unlikely to garner enough GOP votes to become law.

Many Republicans opposed the Equality Act’s trumping of a freedom-of-religion law. OK, we get it. There are other ways to support workers during the pandemic. They are not only battling vaccine mandates, but also a lack of affordable childcare and guaranteed parental and sick leave. The GOP could get behind some of these reforms.

But our gut tells us we won’t see Republicans and the interests of the working class align again for a very long time.

©2021 Miami Herald

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