Samuel Wurzelbacher, the former conservative commentator who achieved some notoriety during the 2008 presidential election over a question he asked candidate Barack Obama, has joined the United Auto Workers — and has gone on Facebook to defend his decision.
The Toledo, Ohio native was branded "Joe the Plumber" by the media, after candidate John McCain made political hay out of Wurzelbacher's encounter with Obama, in which the future president said "…I think when you spread the wealth around, it’s good for everybody."
"I was just recently hired on at Chrysler… In order to work for Chrysler, you are required to join the Union, in this case UAW. There’s no choice — it’s a union shop — the employees voted to have it that way and in America that’s the way it is."
Critics have claimed that Wurzelbacher is in fact not required to join the union in order to get his Chrysler job, although he is required to to pay a fee to cover the union's cost of representing him.
Wurzelbacher appears to have anticipated some blowback from his remaining conservative fans, as he posted a defense to Facebook before anyone had a chance to criticize his decision.
"Yes, I have a website that puts out conservative news. Yes, I am part owner of a gun company. Yes, I’m a Republican who was cast into the limelight for having the temerity to confront Barack Obama on the question of redistributing wealth…. But I’m a working man and I’m working."
“I've always found a way to make my way, and now I've had the fortune of being hired by a great company — Chrysler Corporation — one of the original Big Three."
"Private unions, such as the UAW, is [sic] a choice between employees and employers. If that is what they want then who am I to say you can’t have it?"
In October 2008, Obama attended a campaign event in Wurzelbacher's Ohio neighborhood. Wurzelbacher said to the candidate, "I'm getting ready to buy a company that makes 250 to 280 thousand dollars a year. Your new tax plan's going to tax me more, isn't it?" Obama's "spread the wealth" comment was made as part of the response to this question, and was immediately seized upon by McCain. Wurzelbacher subsequently made three campaign appearances with McCain in Ohio.
Wurzelbacher clarified that he intended to purchase a plumbing business. Reporters soon determined that Wurzelbacher was not a plumber, and did not have the resources to buy a business. If Wurzelbacher had purchased the business he described, Obama's tax plan would most likely have lowered its taxes.
But Wurzelbacher became a symbol for those who saw Obama's candidacy as a sign of creeping Socialism; and when the Tea Party movement began in the wake of Obama's election, Wurzelbacher became associated with that movement. In 2012, Wurzelbacher ran for Congress as a Republican, but was handily defeated by his Democratic opponent.
On his Facebook page, Wurzelbacher claimed that another Chrysler worker referred to him as a "teabagger," a derogatory term for Tea Party members.
Wurzelbacher courted controversy in 2012 when he blamed the Holocaust on gun control. When Jewish groups complained, Wurzelbacher replied "Unfortunately there are a lot of whiners out there." He also said, "For years I've said, you know, put a damn fence on the border, going to Mexico and start shooting," a comment that drew the ire of liberals and Hispanic groups.