The College Republicans at the University of Georgia hosted Sen. Bruce Thompson, Labor Commissioner candidate, on Wednesday night in the UGA Miller Learning Center.
Thompson discussed how he became involved in politics, his plans for addressing unemployment and what he believes is important for politicians to know.
Cards passed out during the event detailed Thompson’s platform and objectives if elected. Thompson said he is pro-life, pro-family and pro-business, wanting to modernize the Department of Labor, update technology, restore credibility and maximize responsiveness.
Thompson began by posing a question to attendees: How many of you have been engaged in politics prior to coming here and why are you involved?
“If you truly don't know why you're involved, you can easily be swayed, that's why I posed that question,” Thompson said.
Thompson made reference to answers given by the Democrat Labor Commissioner candidate William Boddie and Libertarian candidate Emily Anderson during Tuesday’s debate, citing their lack of preparedness and not knowing why they were running.
“The reason you should be involved is because this is your country. It's not a democratic country, it's not a Republican country, it's your country and you have to decide what you want it to be, and if you don't, you're letting somebody else decide,” Thompson said. “When we first decided we we're going to run for labor, it was only because no one else was running to fix this dumpster fire.”
Thompson emphasized the one thing he said a candidate must do in order to win the seat they are running for: Connect with the constituents.
Thompson spent most of his time at the meeting taking questions from the audience and started by answering what the Labor Commissioner does and what he plans to do in the role if elected.
Among the responsibilities are working with the federal government on child labor laws and work visas while directly working with claims related to unemployment benefits and workforce shortages, Thompson said.
“Every place you go right now has a workforce shortage,” Thompson said. “There's 325,000 jobs in the state of Georgia unfilled right now, that’s a lot of jobs. Workforce is what's supposed to be the Department of Labor.”
Thompson said his goal is to fix the workforce shortage through utilizing technology, retirees, people released from incarceration and veterans. He then detailed his plan to improve technology to create a way for employers to put their previous employees’ information into the system where bots and AI would generate their unemployment claims.
When asked what he thought was the cause of the current labor shortage, Thompson said people have become addicted to being provided for through federal benefits and there is no way to track who has been offered a job and is not taking one.
Thompson gave attendees a metaphor for the situation, asking them why national parks have signs telling people not to feed the bears.
“It's about protecting the bears because when you start feeding the bears, they no longer use that innate ability to fend for themselves, they lose that ability. And then when you cut that off, you put your tent down and you move, they become very aggressive because they're coming back for food. That's what happens when you take government and people,” Thompson said.
Thompson said this started during Obama’s presidency with free cell phones and has continued into the COVID-19 unemployment checks.
If elected, Thompson plans to create technology to track residents who are unemployed and their ability to work. If someone is able to work but is unwilling, Thompson said they would receive a notice with job opportunities and if they don’t take one, they will have their benefits cut off.
“Maybe there are four companies that have offered a position at $65,000 a year, but she's going to stay unemployed because she’s doing something on the side, we’re going to cut her benefits off after she's been notified, because she can begin to employ and she refuses to take,” Thompson said. “You get hungry enough, I know you and I can go a little while, but after a little while, goes away, we're going to get hungry enough, we're going to come back to work. That's not going to be popular.”
Thompson also shared his “out of the box” idea he plans to implement, a fellowship for women to learn career and life skills. Thompson said he is an entrepreneur by trade and wants to prepare women for entering the private sector.
An example of a lesson that would be taught is that when interviewing for a job, the interviewee should walk into a room, shake the interviewer’s hand and wait to be told to sit down, Thompson said.
When finished speaking, Thompson posed for a photo with UGACR members and stuck around to speak individually with attendees.
Speaking with The Red & Black, Josh Gregory, chairman of UGACR, said they are working to engage students in politics.
“I would encourage people from any political ideology to attend our meetings,” Gregory said. “Obviously, our hope is to inform and elect more conservatives to office, but I really like to get students engaged in politics, and hope that anybody with open interest would feel comfortable coming to our meetings.”