OPINION

Labor Voices: A clear choice in November

James P. Hoffa

Less than a month from today, Michiganians will have an opportunity to head to the polls. While many might be tempted to just throw up their hands instead of casting a vote, they should keep in mind what is at stake. Because rest assured, those with corporate interests certainly will.

A slew of state and federal candidates will be on the ballot Nov. 4, highlighted by tight races for governor and U.S. Senate. And it is incumbent on every voter to get familiar with their stances on the issues. Too many seeking elective office have become enamored with big business at the cost of regular workers. If allowed to take power, those lawmakers will reward their moneyed elite contributors.

The Teamsters are urging our members and those concerned about the future of the middle class to support candidates who are willing to invest in Michigan and our communities. Although one might think that any candidate would want what's best for this state, the facts just don't back it up.

Take trade, for instance. It may not seem obvious why the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership with 11 other nations is a significant issue for rank-and-file workers. But make no mistake, the Teamsters have seen this story play out before, and it does not end well.

NAFTA, the 20-year-old trade deal between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, cost upwards of 1 million U.S. workers their jobs. And there is significant reason to be concerned that the TPP would be even worse. It would lead to the off-shoring of jobs and a reduction in workplace protections, not to mention a reduction in food and product safety.

Meanwhile, Michigan under the leadership of Gov. Rick Snyder took a significant step back when it jammed through so-called "right-to-work" legislation in late 2012.Why would any elected official support the idea of fewer union jobs, when U.S. labor statistics show the average union worker makes $200 a week more than their non-union brethren?

Right to work is a ruse. The law is proven not to be a deciding factor in where businesses locate. It was just another effort by big business to tip the economic scales even more in their favor at the expense of hard-working Michiganians.

And then there is the auto industry bailout. It's long since over now, so you'd think that history would show what a good deal it was for workers in the state. The fact that federal loans saved about 1 million U.S. jobs should be proof enough.

But not all candidates seem to be convinced. The return of former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, an opponent of the bailout, to his home state last week to campaign just reminds voters that he and his party were wrong.

When you don't fight to close loopholes that encourage companies to ship their jobs overseas, you're not doing what's best for Michigan. When you support legislation that takes away the ability for workers to collectively bargain, you're not doing what's best for Michigan. And when you didn't support a hand up to the American automakers that employ hundreds of thousands in the state, you're not doing what's best for Michigan.

James P. Hoffa is president of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.

Labor Voices

Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.