“Joe the Plumber,” a darling of the right wing ever since he got Barack Obama to say that his goal was to “spread the wealth around,” is now a dues-paying member of one of President Obama’s biggest union supporters, the United Auto Workers.
Samuel “Joe” Wurzelbacher, 40, of Springfield Township announced in a Facebook posting on Monday and on his Web site, joeforamerica.com, that he had been hired for a union job at the Jeep plant by Chrysler Group LLC.
In a long message, Mr. Wurzelbacher said, “I was just recently hired on at Chrysler,” and explained that while he’s known as a conservative, he’s not an enemy of private unions.
“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,” he wrote.
The declaration on Facebook quickly attracted a slew of “likes” and comments, some of them highly critical; others cheering him on.
“Well Joe you did badmouth the UAW and the American auto industry,” wrote Kirk Franklin. “My advice to you. Do your job, keep your mouth shut, and be happy the auto industry didn’t turn its back on you like you did the auto industry.”
Ty Mummey counseled, “Zip it just do your job. Let it go in one ear out other, they want you to get mad then they win. Nov. 2014 we will find out the way this country is going. Up or down.”
A prolific social media poster, Mr. Wurzelbacher, said, “Yes, I have a Web site 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,” he wrote.
“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,” Mr. Wurzelbacher wrote.
"Private unions, such as the UAW, is a choice between employees and employers. If that is what they want, then who am I to say you can’t have it?" he said.
Mr. Wuzelbacher pointed out that he had been called a “tea-bagger” — a derogatory term for members of the loosely knit conservative Tea Party — by one of his new colleagues.
“I had three days of orientation, and now I’m ‘on the job’ over here at Chrysler and on Day 4, I’m outside on a break smoking a cigarette and right on cue — some guy calls me a ‘tea-bagger,’ ” he said.
He said the man called himself a “journeyman,” and then quickly walked away.
“I asked him if he recognizes the training we receive in the military in the trades as legitimate, but he didn’t seem interested in a serious discussion and just rushed off. …” Mr. Wurzelbacher said. Mr. Wurzelbacher has said that he learned plumbing in the Air Force.
Mr. Wurzelbacher did not return phone calls seeking comment. Nor did Bruce Baumhower, president of UAW Local 12. Jodi Tinson, spokesman for Chrysler, refused to confirm that Mr. Wurzelbacher is an employee.
It was unclear whether he was a member of skilled trades at Chrysler, such as a plumber in maintenance, or on the assembly line.
He became famous in 2008 because of a chance encounter on his street with Mr. Obama, then a Democratic presidential candidate, and has become a popular figure of the Tea Party right. Mr. Wurzelbacher and Mr. Obama engaged in a spirited debate about Mr. Obama’s plans to raise taxes on incomes over $250,000, prompting Mr. Obama to say that his plan would help everyone because it would “spread the wealth around.”
The UAW contributed $148,967 to Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said he was concerned about taxes because he was thinking of buying a plumbing business. That prompted criticism because Mr. Wurzelbacher does not hold a plumbing license, though he was working legally for a plumber contractor.
In 2012, Mr. Wurzelbacher unsuccessfully ran for the 9th Congressional District as the Republican nominee against U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D., Toledo).
During that campaign, Mr. Wurzelbacher and Miss Kaptur differed on the federal bailout that saved Chrysler and General Motors from a destructive bankruptcy.
Mr. Wurzelbacher said the 2009 bailout was “government overreach into the private market.”
“I’m very happy my neighbors have a job. They’re good people, and I hate to see any kind of unemployment. You can make the argument that ultimately it was the federal government who chopped the legs out from under the auto manufacturing industry, so you could almost say the federal government owed it back to them,” Mr. Wurzelbacher said.