Sen. Brown: 'Hitler didn't want unions'
March 4th, 2011
09:46 AM ET
10 years ago

Sen. Brown: 'Hitler didn't want unions'

Washington (CNN)-Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio invoked Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin while sounding off on union battles with state lawmakers in his state and in Wisconsin.

"I look back in history, in some of the worst governments that we had, you know the first thing they did, go after unions, Hitler didn't want unions, Stalin didn't want unions, Mubarak didn't want unions, these autocrats don't want independent unions," Brown said Thursday during a speech on the floor of the Senate.

Brown railed against legislative measures proposed in Ohio and Wisconsin that would limit collective bargaining rights for state workers saying "We believe workers should organize and bargain collectively. We believe in worker' compensation. We believe in workers' safety. We believe in human rights."

Attributing problems in the state to people who are "hungry" and "want fairness and a chance to make a living," the first-term senator who's up for re-election next year expressed his frustration but backed away from making a direct comparison to the dictators saying "I'm not comparing what's happened to the workers in Madison or in Columbus to Hitler or Stalin but I am saying that history teaches us that unions are a very positive force in society that create a middle class that protects our freedom. So don't tell me you support unions internationally but you don't' support unions here."

State workers and supporters have traveled to the state capitol in both Madison, Wisconsin and Columbus, Ohio to protest the controversial measures which were proposed as cost-cutting methods to battle budget deficits in both states.

Filed under: Ohio • Sherrod Brown • Wisconsin
soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. kardiac

    While I agree with the intent of the Senator's speech I do not agree with his delivery. Using Hitler,etc. in comparison to a sitting state governor is devisive and uncalled for. We are supposed to be trying to have civilized debate. If even Democrats resort to the name calling that Republicans enjoy doing where would we be?

    March 4, 2011 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  2. Bob in PA

    "autocrats" ?
    Really Mr. Brown ? you really want to make that comparison ?
    How unbelievably ignorant do you think we are.

    March 4, 2011 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  3. Tambour Inmann

    As much as I agree with the overall sentiment, Senator Brown's phrasing here is sloppy. I'm tempted to blurt out "Godwin's Law!" and be done with it. Really, out of all the possible arguments that Senator Brown could have presented, out of any of the dozens of ways to point out that Governor Walker is patently incorrect in his actions, he goes with "He's like Hitler?"

    Middle school rhetoric. I expect better from my representatives, especially the ones with whom I agree.

    March 4, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  4. Mogdaork

    you are wrong mr.brown, the first thing hitler did was win popularity with promises, Unions were not a issue.

    March 4, 2011 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  5. informed voter

    The people who brought our economy to its knees are the Wall Street traders who rated their mortgage securities as AAA (when they were worthless) then repackaged the garbage and sold it over and over again. None of these Robber Barons have faced justice either in life (they were bailed out by Paulson and the Bush administration) nor in a court of law.

    All of these states that are having deficit problems had their pension funds gutted by the financial collapse of the housing bubble. This was NOT the fault of the unions, teachers, firefighters, police, street cleaners, yet now the Republicans are trying to use this "crisis" (which we wouldn't have if we would properly tax the billion dollar corporations) to bust unions and end worker's rights to bargain collectively.

    It is so transparent and unfortunate that so many uneducated voters still believe the Reps are good for them and the economy.

    March 4, 2011 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  6. ddt

    Thanks Senator for telling it as it is.

    March 4, 2011 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. Lance

    There they go again. Any kind of Demagoguery to link conservatism with Nazis, Hitler, Stalin. It's shameful. Let's have an educated discussion without the ad hominem or strawman attacks. It shows who's really insecure about their position. Truth is, Unions are killing us financially, especially at the state level. They want more for less, with less accountability and more job security for under productive workers. As Shirley Sherrod said, "Have you heard of anybody in the federal government losing their job?" Cadillac plans and a job for life. The times they are a changin'. Time for unions to go.

    March 4, 2011 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  8. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Republicans had no problem giving the bankers unrestricted bail out tax payer money, and the big banks in turn, gave bonuses of our tax payer money, in the millions of dollars to the same idiots who caused our near depression. But the republicans and Fox think it is a crime to pay a teacher $51,000. The GOP and Fox have attacked teachers, police, firemen, nurses, snow plow drivers and labelled them as elitists. There must be one republican in the country who is not anti middle class and anti worker, but he or she is afraid to speak up.

    March 4, 2011 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  9. NVa Native

    Yea, I'm sure Brown regrets the truthful statement because of the Hitler reference.
    But throughout history that is how bullies and tyrants, from king to dictator, have assaulted and attacked mankind – destroy and dehumanize the middle and working class people while using scapegoats (liberals/Dems in this case) to further their hate speech.
    When there are no jobs and unrest it's easier for them to get patriotic citizens to volunteer as soldiers or even better for these despots it's more affordable to hire mercenaries to work for cash (Bechtel, KBR, Blackwater/Xe, Dyncorp, etc). It’s called history, turn of your cable TV channel and read a book!

    March 4, 2011 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. Bob in PA

    "We believe workers should organize and bargain collectively. We believe in worker' compensation. We believe in workers' safety. We believe in human rights."

    He missed a few points – 'We believe workers are not ndividuals. We believe all workers are equal no matter what their skill level is. We believe all workers should get "same same"'.

    March 4, 2011 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  11. sickofpoliticians

    I didn't know there were organized labor unions in the 1930's or early 1940's. Is this politician right that there were unions back then. I think he is blowing smoke up the rears of Americans to support his Union buddies...

    March 4, 2011 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  12. Billy

    Where is the tea party and their outrage at dictators taking away the right of the American worker? Oh, that's right, they are an astroturf movement bought and paid for by those same dictators.

    March 4, 2011 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  13. carlos

    way to go Sen. hell with those anti american governors in Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin and the other imbeciles who support them...

    March 4, 2011 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  14. TribB

    Ah yes, Reductio ad Hitlerum. Godwin's Law strikes again.

    They teach most first year debate students that if you have to compare your opponent to hitler, you've already lost.

    March 4, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  15. Steve

    What happened to the "civil discourse" that our President and other Dems called for after the Giffords shooting?? Invoking monsters like Hitler and Stalin in referring to the democratic process (remember Wisconsin voters WANTED this) heads in the wrong direction. No wonder people are fed up with our politicians!

    March 4, 2011 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  16. Robert

    Senator Brown is absolutely correct.

    Stalin didn't like Unions either.
    Mao Zedong didn't like Unions.

    It was a Union leader – Lech Walesa – who overthrew the Communist system in Poland.

    Totalitarians hate the potential for organized opposition.

    March 4, 2011 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  17. Inmyopinion

    Obviously Sen. Brown has never lived in Germany nor does he know any Germans like some of us to understand that Hitler was not thinking about Unions. Hitler wanted to occupy all of Europe and have ultimate control over it and had a lot of mental issues, rebellion, anger with his father and Jews, German Jews, etc...any German, European will tell you this. People should really try living in foreign countries.

    March 4, 2011 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  18. Kurt

    Unions had their place. Now they just bankrupt whoever employs them. I would like to make my own correlation here. Look up Time's "Man of the Year" for these two years: 1938 and 2008.

    March 4, 2011 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. Lynda/Minnesota

    Hitler this, fascism that. You progressives are starting to sound as looney as the TeaPers. None of this name calling is advancing either party's causes. Certainly not with me, anyway.

    March 4, 2011 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  20. jakinak

    If it had been Senator Scott Brown (the one with an "R" behind his name), this story would be the "breaking news headlines" on every major network in the country...

    March 4, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  21. The reality is...

    Brown is attempting to portray a false picture. He either really doesn't understand what's going on or he is just another tool for the liberal Democrat agenda. When public employees, who's pay comes from taxpayer dollars, are allowed benefit packages that are far more generous than the private sector taxpayers' benefits there is a big problem. Brown should read Peggy Noonan's commentary about unions; it may help him grasp the reality of the situation. Public Unions Get Too 'Friendly' –
    Mar 4, 2011 ... Peggy Noonan is a columnist for The Wall Street Journal whose work appears weekly in the Journal's Weekend Edition and on ... – Cached – Similar – Add to iGoogle

    March 4, 2011 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  22. Just sayin

    Not another Democrate invoking images of the past to suit themselves......

    March 4, 2011 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  23. Frank

    State of Wisc says damage to marble at Capitol could hit $7.5 million!!!!!
    Make the unions pay for this damage. Not the tax payers.

    March 4, 2011 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  24. Angry Vet2

    History has proven this point. Dictators despise freedom and organizations they cannot control. Next question is where is Walker's Brown Shirts?

    March 4, 2011 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  25. Bill in STL

    But Stalin did want a collective.... Senator Brown .... Be quiet!

    March 4, 2011 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
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