July 2, 2014 at 1:00 am

LABOR VOICES

This fall, ignore 'The Name Game'

This fall, think beyond party affiliation and vote for candidates you see eye-to-eye with. (Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

The fall mid-term elections are coming up and with it, another installment of “The Name Game.”

All of us know about “The Name Game.” Instead of focusing on the nation’s very real problems, such as the lack of job growth, our decaying infrastructure, failing public schools or finally doing something meaningful about our nation’s broken immigration laws, politicians focus on labels.

Liberal or conservative? Right-wing or left-wing? These labels have a way of dividing our elected officials into neat little columns for those who like easy classification, rather than having to explain or defend a complex and nuanced position on an issue.

But it’s never that simple.

If you hunt and own guns, but also support reasonable rules and regulation such as background checks to prevent people from obtaining automatic weapons and going on shooting sprees, does that make you a liberal or conservative?

Are you right-wing or left-wing when you say you want a balanced budget – but not at the expense of truly needy senior citizens or the millions of American children who go to bed hungry each night?

We can allow our country to continue to be handcuffed by extremists or we can demand our lawmakers ignore labels and begin to take commonsense approaches to the issues.

We can use the power of our votes to punish candidates who refuse to budge one inch because they are too rigid in their own beliefs or lack the intestinal fortitude to stand up to extremists. Most Americans want a reasonable approach to whatever problems we face.

The most critical issue facing this nation right now is a lack of good-paying jobs, ones that support a family and maybe allow it to save a bit for the future.

We have always had a strong economy when the middle class was growing and lifting people out of poverty. When unions were thriving and workers were making gains at the bargaining table, everybody did better.

They did better because people had disposable income. They could buy the car they built. They could buy a house. They could save for college and retirement.

We’re quickly headed toward a more unjust society where a few at the top reap the lion’s share of the wealth, while creating a large, permanent, working underclass. There’s no stability or justice in such a situation.

The only way out of this is to encourage the kinds of jobs our nation needs, ones with decent wages and job security. The first step is to pass a jobs bill – not after the November election, but before it. Is it too much to ask that our elected officials put partisan politics aside for a couple of weeks to analyze, discuss and debate legislation that will benefit all Americans? Lawmakers from both parties can take credit for its success.

Most of America sits squarely in the middle of the political spectrum, including most trade unionists. As trade unionists, we know that without decent-paying jobs that support families and communities, our nation will never fully recover from the recession. It’s long past time for our elected representatives – liberal, conservative and in-between – to stop playing “The Name Game” and get down to the important work we’ve elected them to do.

Dennis Williams is president of the United Auto Workers.

Dennis Williams