The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 27, 2000

Election 2000: 'We have the power in our votes'

By The Building Tradesman

C. William Helwig
Vice President/Political Education Chair
Pipe Fitters Local 636

As citizens, our responsibility to vote in elections is evident. As union members, our votes are cast to elect labor-friendly candidates. As building trades workers, this duty is paramount to our livelihoods and for our families.

Our choices are clear. This November we must not sit idly by and let the anti-labor forces dictate to us what our state policies (and who our representatives) will be. We in the union labor movement have struggled too hard and too long for collective bargaining rights, for just overtime compensation and fair labor standards, among other issues.

Chamber of Commerce influence is on the rise in state political circles. New legislation is on the way to eliminate the 40-hour work-week (under the guise of comp time), further weakening of under-enforced MIOSHA regulations, and promotion of the use of "independent contractors" (where business will pay no Social Security, Workers Comp or health insurance, while the worker is responsible for his or her own coverage.)

Absent from this scenario is social conscience. That is a luxury those currently running the state feel is not their concern. Anyone believing the current Michigan Supreme Court is looking out for any one of us, think again. Their unabashedly shameless decisions have not met up to the word "supreme" in the state court system

Add redistricting to the mixture. State law allows the Michigan House and Senate to redraw the lines every 10 years after the census results are made official. The possibility of continuous one-party rule becomes stronger if we let one party draw the boundaries themselves, so realize that we must strive to regain the House during this election cycle.

True democracy occurs only when we participate. The handwriting is on the wall. Don't be misled by the rhetoric being spewed by those with the money for the slick ads. Consider why a U.S. Senator from Michigan needs to spend more than $12 million to retain his seat while struggling to save face in the polls, while his challenger spends less than half as much and is running a clean campaign. Grassroots support is the answer. So is your interest in the race.

When a candidate with a solid labor record is up for election, it is in our best interest to make it possible for them to represent us in Lansing, Washington and our local communities. Let's all do our best to remember, we have the power in our votes, and only if we exercise this right will we be truly represented.