Pennsylvania state senator Scott Wagner (R-York) said labor unions, Russian President Vladimir Putin, and Adolf Hitler are about "power and control" during a senate debate Wednesday that drew response from the state's largest teachers' union, reported The Washington Times.
Wagner made the comments over legislation seeking to prohibit public employees from automatically deducting union dues from members' paychecks.
"And there are two things that I continue to remember about power and control. There was a gentleman by the name of Hitler, he was about power and control," Wagner said. "There is a gentleman by the name of Putin, who is across the ocean, that is about power and control. The union situation is about power and control. That is my comment on that issue."
In an interview with the Associated Press, Wagner said he did not compare labor unions to dictators.
"I'm not comparing unions to Hitler and I'm not comparing them to Putin," Wagner said. "I'm talking about the concept of power and control... I didn't say the unions are out killing people."
Pennsylvania State Education Association president Mike Crossey criticized Wagner's comments.
"This kind of language is shocking, offensive and has no place in public discourse," Crossey said in a statement. "It is so disappointing to see a powerful elected official making such an awful comparison. What a terrible example this sets for our children."
Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa (D-Allegheney) found the remarks offensive as well.
"I believe those are very dangerous remarks and should be cause for concern for folks as we go forward," Costa said.
Wagner is not backing down. In a press conference Thursday, he again compared unions to dictators and had no regrets. He also told union members who are upset about his comments to "grow up," according to the Huffington Post.
"Let's talk about Moammar Gadhafi, let's talk about Saddam Hussein," said Wagner.
These "paycheck protection" bills have been pushed by conservative groups around the U.S. with backing of organizations like theAmericans for Prosperity, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Speaking at a capitol rally, Wagner said the bill's passage is necessary for Republicans to succeed in their efforts to overhaul public employee pension systems.
"This is the single-most important issue or we go nowhere," Wagner said.
Pennsylvania AFL-CIO President Rick Bloomingdale said,"It is nothing more than outside billionaires coming into Pennsylvania to try to silence workers. That's all this is."
Governor Tom Corbett (R) said he will sign the bill if it comes to his desk.
[Image via pennlive.com]