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U.S. conservative 'Joe the Plumber' a union man? 'You betcha,' he says

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (L), known as Joe the Plumber, and a Republican congressional candidate in Ohio, speaks to attendees at the Ameri
Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher (L), known as Joe the Plumber, and a Republican congressional candidate in Ohio, speaks to attendees at the Ameri

By Brendan O'Brien

(Reuters) - An Ohio man who rose to fame as "Joe the Plumber" by challenging then-presidential candidate Barack Obama on tax policy in 2008 has taken a unionized job with one of the U.S. Big Three automakers, he said on his website.

Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher, a conservative, announced on Sunday that he recently had the "fortune of being hired by a great company", Chrysler Corporation, where all workers must be United Automobile Workers union members.

"Can a conservative work safely and soundly in a union environment - in a shop filled with union workers, activists, voters and life-long supporters of the Democrat Party? You betcha," he wrote in a blog post on JoeforAmerica.com.

On his fourth day at Chrysler, however, as Wurzelbacher was on a smoke break, he said a coworker called him a "teabagger," a term he said is usually meant as an insult to Tea Party members.

"Most union workers have not been mean, and quite a few asked me questions and talked with me and are cool with me," he wrote. He also wrote that he opposes public unions because "taxpayers are never properly represented at the bargaining table."

As for private unions, he wrote that "it's an American worker's right to unionize for sure, but that being said, don't expect me not to point out when or if union leadership takes advantage of union members."

In 2008, Wurzelbacher put himself in the national spotlight by questioning then-candidate Obama on tax policy as the future president campaigned door-to-door in an Ohio neighborhood.

Republican 2008 presidential candidate John McCain and others embraced Wurzelbacher as a working-class everyman who would be hurt by Obama's tax plans. But his reputation suffered when it was revealed the tradesman was not, in fact, a licensed plumber.

Wurzelbacher ran for a U.S. House seat in 2012 but lost in the general election.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Ken Wills)

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