Bieber: GOP must protect Michigan seniors, workers

Ron Bieber

Michigan voters expect our elected officials in Lansing and Washington to stand up for us, to fight for good-paying jobs, and to preserve the promise of a secure retirement.

But too many Republican politicians have been willing to sell out our jobs to the highest bidder, all in an attempt to rubber stamp the same kind of unfair trade agreements that have cost Michigan hundreds of thousands of middle-class manufacturing jobs over the last two decades. These bad trade deals have also driven up our trade deficit with countries like China and Mexico.

Washington Republicans like Tim Walberg, R-Tipton, and Mike Bishop, R-Rochester, have made things worse by selling out Michigan jobs and Michigan workers, then taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from big corporations and wealthy CEOs who support such trade agreements.

Consider that Bishop recently voted to put the Trans-Pacific Partnership on a “fast track,” while collecting thousands of dollars in contributions in just the first half of this year from big corporations and members of the billionaire DeVos family, owners of pro-fast track Amway and Alticor.

Not to be outdone, Walberg cashed in with over $70,000 in contributions of his own over the same period, from pro-fast track corporations, as well as the DeVos family.

Even Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination, is rightly concerned about China’s recent unfair actions to manipulate its currency. When countries like China don’t play by the rules, it threatens good middle class American jobs like those in the auto industry, and it must be stopped.

But this problem will go from bad to worse under fast track. Without proper oversight through the democratic process to ensure strong enforcement provisions, it will be virtually impossible to hold countries like China accountable when they cheat in the global economy, hurting Michigan families in the process.

To add insult to injury, these same politicians also support a reckless ideology that will make it even harder for our seniors to retire with dignity.

Social Security and Medicare are part of America’s basic social compact. For 80 and 50 years, respectively, these programs have provided essential retirement savings and health care to thousands of Michigan seniors. These programs work well, and our leaders should be working to protect the promise of Social Security and Medicare for future generations.

However, Walberg has said he “would definitely support the privatization of the so-called Social Security system,” branded it “a Ponzi scheme,” and called it “socialism at its finest.” For his part, Bishop has also supported privatizing Social Security, calling it “broken.”

Even worse, Walberg and Bishop both support the irresponsible Paul Ryan budget, which would end Medicare as we know it by turning it into a private voucher program, all to give millionaires another tax cut. That’s just not right.

They can start by working across the aisle to strengthen Social Security and Medicare, and by rejecting bad trade deals that will make it harder for Michigan workers to compete in the global economy. The people of Michigan deserve nothing less.

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.