Bieber: Local communities should set labor policy

Ron Bieber

For at least the past four decades, Republicans have billed themselves as the party of smaller government. But a new bill that was pushed through the Legislature by Republicans will actually take power away from our local communities, and hand it over to politicians and wealthy special interests in Lansing.

House Bill 4052 was sponsored by Rep. Earl Poleski, R-Jackson. This new bill will interfere with our communities by banning local units of government from establishing laws and ordinances that set a higher minimum wage, provide earned sick days for workers, and require that local road and infrastructure jobs go to local workers.

Make no mistake, this is a clear political power grab that will dramatically undermine local control in Michigan. And for a political party that claims to abhor the idea of “big government,” this bill represents a broad expansion of the size and scope of state government at the expense of our local communities.

But concern about HB 4052 has not been limited to one party, group, or community.

Five Republicans in the House and five Republican senators did the right thing by crossing over to vote with Democrats to oppose the bill. Earlier this month, city councils in Jackson and Ann Arbor — representing citizens from the “birthplace of the Republican Party,” and one of the most culturally progressive cities in America — both passed resolutions strongly opposing HB 4052 .

“Cities like Jackson need the freedom and flexibility to adopt policies that create good jobs for local workers that pay fair wages,” said Jason Smith, mayor of Jackson. “Unfortunately, this bill guts local control, and makes it harder for local communities to pass ordinances that protect working families and small businesses.”

A one-size-fits-all approach to governing does not work for everyone because different communities have different needs. The needs of people living in cities like Detroit, Flint, or Grand Rapids are not always the same as the needs of people in smaller towns like Grand Ledge, Montague, or New Boston. As long as local ordinances don’t violate any state laws, then the state government shouldn’t punish those communities by standing in their way. And yet, that’s exactly what this legislation will do.

The real reason this bill is being pushed right now is because it’s a way for Lansing politicians to pay back their wealthy special interest donors by allowing them to ignore the local laws they don’t support.

Ultimately, these special interests are using their influence to come into our communities and take away power from citizens at the local level to protect their profits. They are violating our right to make laws that reflect our values, like making our workplaces healthier, ensuring a living wage, and making our air and water cleaner and safer.

These special interests shouldn’t have the final say about local ordinances, especially when citizens in these communities are the ones who have to live with the consequences.

Instead of interfering with local governments, our elected leaders in Lansing should be working together to advance an agenda that ensures good jobs and fair wages for all Michigan workers.

Gov. Rick Snyder should do the right thing by vetoing this undemocratic bill to protect local control for all Michigan communities.

Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.

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 Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook.