Opinion: Voters wishes should be respected during lame duck
On Election Day, the voters of this state sent a resounding message, proclaiming a mandate for a pro-working family agenda. The people of this state made it clear that they want an economy that works for everyone, they want their freedoms in the workplace respected, they want a fair return on their work and they want to be able to sustain their families and send their children to get a quality public education. The Republican leadership should not use their final days in office to stick their thumb in the eye of the voters.
The election of Gretchen Whitmer as our next governor by such a decisive margin was a strong and clear message that the people of this state have had enough of the last eight years where special interests have manipulated the rules to benefit corporations. That statement was underscored when the voters chose pro-labor candidates across the top of the ticket, when they elected a pro-labor justice on the Supreme Court, when they defied the odds of the gerrymandered districts to elect more pro-labor members to Congress and the State Legislature. And if that were not enough, the voters really drove the message home when they passed anti-gerrymandering and pro-voter ballot proposals.
For lame-duck lawmakers to reject the undeniable will of the voters before they walk out the door would be further proof that they do not have the best interests of working women and men at heart. People showed up in near-record numbers to say enough is enough, to put an end to the attacks on working families and the erosion of their freedoms in the workplace. They showed up to protect their retirement and say that the needs of the people should come first. The people declared that they want investment in public schools and infrastructure. To act contrary to the desires expressed on Election Day would be disgraceful.
The lame-duck session should be used to deal with urgent needs such as the ongoing Flint Water crisis, or the PFAS contamination facing many communities across the state. It should not be used as an opportunity for an unconstitutional gutting of the earned paid sick leave and minimum wage citizens initiatives passed earlier this year. Dangling a pay raise and sick leave in front of the voters only to yank it away after the election would be an unconscionable betrayal of the working families of this state.
Gov. Rick Snyder should set a clear, concise agenda for his final weeks as governor and hold the legislature to it. He should refuse to sign any legislation that would erode our freedoms to collectively negotiate. He should refuse to sign any legislation that would chip away at the benefits promised to retirees. He should refuse to sign any legislation that would undermine the hard-working teachers who educate our children. He should not be a collaborator to subverting the will of the voters.
The voters sent a loud, clear message on election day: prioritize the needs of working families, invest in our public schools, fix the damn roads and put an end to manipulating the rules to benefit the wealthy and corporations. Now, the Republican leadership in the legislature just needs to listen.
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.