How to Talk to Your Right-Wing Uncle on Thanksgiving

Photo credit: Will Marlow

We all have one. That right-wing, Fox News-loving uncle who comes to Thanksgiving ready to watch football, eat like a king and tell you the ways liberals are ruining the country. You love this uncle — he’s blood — but you’re not sure you can endure one more reference to Hillary Clinton and uranium. Your uncle knows you work in the labor movement. So you are his debate target. Your cousin, the podiatrist, is getting off scot-free.

Trust me, I’ve been there. It’s going to be OK. And to help, I am offering these tips for making the experience as enjoyable as possible.

1) Be nice. You promised your mother there wouldn’t be a Thanksgiving throw down. Do your part to keep that promise. Give your uncle first dibs on a drumstick. Tell him he looks like he’s lost weight. Talk to him about football to break the ice. Remember, the Lions and the Cowboys play every Thanksgiving and this year, the Giants and Redskins play at night. If your uncle is a Giants fan, don’t talk about football.

2) Your uncle is likely to have a negative perception of unions, given his viewing habits. You’ve heard it all before. We’re a thing of the past. We drive jobs overseas. We are self-interested. Remind him of what Ronald Reagan said about unions. “When free unions and collective bargaining are forbidden, freedom is lost.” Your uncle loves Reagan. And freedom. Mic drop.

3) Tell your uncle about all the things unions do that he may not know. Tell him about the 300 union members who volunteered their time and skills to the rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico with little to no notice. Tell him about our apprenticeship programs that educate and train workers to ladder up into better jobs. Tell him about the work we do for America’s veterans.

4) Tell your uncle that the popularity of unions is growing, especially among young people and even among conservatives. Then tell him about the resolution the AFL-CIO just passed at our convention declaring the labor movement’s independence from political parties. Stress to him that we support candidates who support us, even Republicans. He will like that.

5) Your uncle probably will talk about the tax legislation moving through Congress. He understandably wants more money in his pocket. Fox News is telling him he’d be a winner under the GOP plan. Your uncle works hard. He’s been at the same job for the past decade, earning $50,000 a year. Explain to him that the tax plan actually would hurt workers like him while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few. You know that hedge fund manager Bryce from the golf course your uncle hates? Tell your uncle the tax bill was written for Bryce.

6) Let your uncle know that if he wants more money in his pocket, he can start by forming a union on the job. Or maybe save that for next year.