“We don’t need to see unions to come down here and pressure the abilities of our small businesses and our corporations and businesses to grow,” said Allen West, the Republican challenger in Florida’s 22nd congressional district, in an Oct. 13 debate with his opponent, Rep. Ron Klein, at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
“We do not allow these labor unions to come to threaten what we have in Florida as a right-to-work state,” he added as a reason to oppose the Employee Free Choice Act.
But despite his anti-union stance, West voluntarily joined the Broward Teachers Union between 2004 and 2005 for the one year he was a high school social studies teacher at Deerfield Beach High School. The union confirmed this to The Florida Independent Monday.
BTU is affiliated with the Florida Education Association, the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO. (The AFL-CIO and FEA endorsed Klein.)
West’s debate statement is part of a pattern of anti-union rhetoric from the candidate. “Incumbent Ron Klein is trying to convince voters he is a moderate,” West says in a campaign ad released on Sept. 21. “Klein supporters know that he has voted with Nancy Pelosi 98 percent of the time, and with union bosses 100 percent of the time.”
On Sept. 6, a conservative writer asked West about what “criminal investigations” he would support as a congressman. West answered, “I would support investigations into this administration’s interactions with Wall Street cronies, unions, ACORN and the SEIU.”
At a speech to the Fort Lauderdale Tea Party on March 27, he warned a group of tea partiers, “George Soros, SEIU, ACORN: They’re coming here, and they’re going to fight you.”
West’s campaign has not responded to a request for comment.
West reaped the various perks of being a union member despite his opposition to public and private sector unions. BTU offers collective bargaining, job protection, legal representation and liability insurance to its members. Florida is a right-to-work state, so joining a union is voluntary. West had no disciplinary actions as a teacher, and his performance was “satisfactory” in all aspects of the job. After one year, West resigned and worked for the military contractor MPRI in Afghanistan and Arlington, Va.
In addition to his anti-union rhetoric, West has advocated the elimination of the Department of Education. “Another agency would be the Department of Education because our education status has gone down since we’ve had the Department of Education,” he said at a rally in Boca Raton in 2009, listing off agencies that “have to go.” A spokesman later said West stood by the statement.
In the Oct. 13 debate, West accused Klein of being duplicitous on his position on unions and the Employee Free Choice Act by “saying certain things behind closed doors and coming out here in front of the American people and saying something different.”
Luke Johnson reports on Florida for The American Independent.