Opinion: Labor united in face of challenges
We have been given a lot of reasons to bond as a labor movement over the last eight years. The Republican majority that has controlled Michigan government has been on the attack, chipping away at the freedoms of working folks. Piece by piece, they have tried to make it harder for us to protect the things we need to sustain our families.
Even now, just one month after the working families of this state showed up at the ballot box to say “enough is enough,” these lame duck lawmakers are taking one last opportunity to manipulate the rules. They are trying to ram through legislation that will disrupt the workplace and make it harder for public employees, like firefighters, teachers and snowplow drivers, to provide the services our communities depend on.
Lawmakers, on their way out of office, are rushing to curb the impact of pro-democracy ballot measures that voters overwhelmingly passed and are gutting the pay raises and paid sick leave legislation they promised just before the election. And in the ultimate betrayal of our democracy and peaceful transfer of power, they’re stripping authority from the Democratic women elected to run our state government.
This lame duck session leaves no doubt of their disdain for the voters, and that their tenure in office has been to do the bidding of corporate special interests at the expense of the hard-working families of Michigan.
These all-out attacks on the voters proves the failure of this Republican majority to learn from their past mistakes. Their ongoing attempts to weaken the ability of working people to join together to fight for their freedoms in the workplace have had quite the opposite effect. We have more union members in Michigan today than when so-called “right to work” was signed into law. The labor movement is more united and committed to standing together than ever before.
Shortly after GM announced that it would be shutting down several plants impacting the employment of thousands of workers, AFT Michigan President David Hecker released a statement which read in part “Closing operations at Michigan’s Detroit-Hamtramck and Warren plants is a cruel and callous insult to the workforce that’s bailed out this company and the entire community that’s supported them.” AFSCME Council 25 President Larry Roehrig said, “The working people of Michigan all stand together to say to GM, we invested in you, now it’s your turn to invest in us.”
Working people understand the power in their numbers and will stand together to demand that our elected officials and corporate leaders create rules for our economy that create opportunity for everyone. And just as the labor movement will stand with our brothers and sisters to oppose these plant closures, so will the voters in Michigan stand together to overcome these callous lame duck attacks on our democracy and workplace rights.
Michigan has a proud legacy of being the state that built the middle class in our country. We had a culture that recognized and rewarded hard work, and a belief that we all did better when we all did better. No one was left behind.
Let’s hope that with new leadership in Lansing we can return to a time when all political leaders believe these are our values once again, and a new period of prosperity for all can be our goal.
Ron Bieber is president of Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Gary Jones, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.