Unrig the system for a stronger economy


President-elect Donald Trump was right about one thing: Our economy is rigged. But it hasn’t been rigged by immigrants, as Trump would have you believe. It’s been rigged by Republican politicians in Lansing and Washington, who’ve manipulated the rules to favor their corporate campaign donors.

Consider the fact that members of the billionaire DeVos family donated $14 million to Republican politicians in the last two years alone, according to the Michigan Campaign Finance Network. As a result, the Michigan Republican Party now seems to act as a wholly owned subsidiary of a single wealthy family, which has pushed an agenda that includes attacking unions, cutting wages and benefits for working people, cutting funding for our local schools, and cutting taxes for millionaires and billionaires.

When the DeVos family says “jump,” politicians like Gov. Rick Snyder and Attorney General Bill Schuette say “how high?” That’s why Betsy DeVos was just rewarded with an appointment as Trump’s Secretary of Education even though she has no experience in public education.

What we’re left with is an economy that works for the wealthy and big corporations, but not working families. Today, far too many people are living paycheck to paycheck, working unreliable hours, with few or no benefits, and left scrambling to retire.

A new report last week found that workers who were born in 1984 only have a 50 percent chance of earning more money than their parents during their careers. By contrast, children born in 1940 had a 92 percent chance of making more than their parents.

If we want to build a vibrant economy with a strong middle class and thriving small businesses, then we need to reform our government so that it works for all of us, not just wealthy families.

It’s time to unrig the system and create new rules for the economy.

We need to protect and strengthen our democracy by getting corporate money out of politics, so everyday Americans can run for office on the strength of their support from small donations — not huge checks from a small group of billionaires. And we need to vigorously protect the right to vote, by rejecting strict voter ID laws that make it harder for seniors and people of color to vote.

We need an agenda that is focused on helping working families succeed and thrive. That means making it easier to join a union so working people can speak up together for strong wages, good benefits, and a secure retirement. And it means requiring equal pay for equal work for women, and paid family leave, so people have more time to spend with family and care for loved ones when they get sick.

And lastly, we need to make government more efficient, accountable, and effective. That means ending tax breaks for big corporations that send jobs overseas. And it means stopping taxpayer-funded money pits like the Capitol View, a $134 million luxury office building for state senators that was approved by Lansing Republicans and is being built by a Republican mega donor.

In January, a new president, congress, and legislature will be sworn in — and they must be reminded that they work for all of us, not just the super-rich. If we want to unrig the system and change the rules in Lansing and Washington to work for working families, then we need to hold their feet to the fire starting on day one.

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.