The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 24, 2000

Few glad tidings after viewing vote results

By Patrick Devlin, Secretary-Treasurer

There isn't much reason for optimism about the direction of our state or our nation after the Nov. 7 election.

For the next two years, at least, the State of Michigan is going to continue to be dominated by Republicans. There are simply no checks or balances that give any influence at all to Democrats.

Still, there were a few positives. The union turnout in Michigan was huge. Our state went big for Al Gore, who came within a whisker of winning Florida, and possibly avoiding the vote-counting mess that followed. We helped remove Spencer Abraham from the U.S. Senate, and replaced him with a true friend of organized labor, Debbie Stabenow. Vouchers were defeated.

And in the building trades, at least, we have continued to fine-tune the way we participate in the world of political action.

The Greater Detroit and Michigan Building Trades Councils put forth an unprecedented effort to help labor-friendly candidates succeed in the 2000 general election. More than a month before the election, we worked in conjunction with local unions to make sure that every building trades union member in Michigan received in the mail a voter registration application and an absentee ballot application. We wanted to make it as convenient as possible for every member in the state to take part in the election process.

Many individual unions did that and more. In particular, the IBEW, the Laborers, the Operating Engineers the pipe trades and the Painters all made special efforts to reach their members. There were phone banks, mailings and personal contacts that helped drive home to our members who our friends are in the political world. Political action people like Bruce Burton of IBEW Local 58 and Bill Helwig of Pipe Fitters Local 636 went well beyond the call of duty to make sure their members were registered to vote and informed about the issues.

The results showed that we weren't all that successful in 2000, but political action is more of a process that we learn as we go along, than it is a science. If you voted in the Nov. 7 election - especially if it was your first time - you made a wise choice. Now I challenge you to keep track of the candidates you voted for, and make sure that they're taking your interests into account when the next election comes around.

That's why political action is a constantly changing process. This time it was a frustrating process for Michigan's labor community.