Finley: Unions need better friend in Lansing
Attorney General Dana Nessel is trying to convince Michigan's construction unions to act against their best interests and join her campaign to kill the jobs-rich Line 5 tunnel beneath the Straits of Mackinac.
Union support for the Enbridge Corp. tunnel, she says, plays into the hands of Republicans, who approved construction when Gov. Rick Snyder was in office.
Her pitch: Republicans don't like you, but I do.
With a friend like Nessel, the unions may as well disband.
After The Detroit News reported that trade unions were withholding campaign funds from Democratic lawmakers who opposed Line 5, Nessel fired off this social media post:
"If unions in this state have learned anything over the last decade, it is this: Republicans in the Legislature are not your friend."
True. The GOP forced through a number of anti-labor measures, most notably the right-to-work law, which ended compulsory union membership in the state.
Nessel also added: "Democratic majorities are essential to Michigan regaining its status as a state which supports workers and their families."
That's a big fat fib, and the Line 5 tunnel is the evidence.
The project would burrow 100 feet beneath the lakebed of the Straits to carry the twin Line 5 petroleum pipelines. At a cost of $500 million — all paid by Enbridge — it would generate up to two million hours of employment over three to five years for welders, pipe fitters, equipment operators, truck drivers, electricians, laborers and a range of other workers.
Perhaps Nessel hasn't noticed, but there aren't a whole lot of half-billion dollar building projects going on in that part of Michigan. The Upper Peninsula is the most economically depressed region in the state. Those tunnel jobs could change the lives of workers who don't see a whole lot of gravy.
That's why the unions are backing the tunnel.
So why is Nessel opposing it? To appease the Democratic constituencies she values more than union workers.
She claims that even encapsulated in a deep tunnel, taking the risk of a spill to virtually zero, Line 5 represents a catastrophic threat to the Great Lakes.
Her real agenda is not protecting the water but appeasing radical environmentalists who hope that cutting off the transport of fossil fuels will force the immediate transition to a green energy economy.
Union members know what that would mean to them, and if they don't they can look to the Appalachian coal fields, where union miners are watching their jobs vanish. Following close behind will be union auto workers, who are looking at a future in which far fewer of them will be needed to produce the electric cars Democrats are demanding.
Same goes for union oil riggers, union truck drivers, and on and on.
It's the people who build and drill and dig and drive who will get shafted by the green new deals Nessel and like-minded Democrats intend to ram through. And those are most likely to be union workers.
Yet the attorney general is asking them to shut up, take one for the team and fund their own demise with contributions to Democratic candidates.
That's quite a friend the unions have in Nessel.
Catch Nolan Finley on "One Detroit at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays on Detroit Public Television.