By Paul Gieleghem
State Representative, 31st District
Dear Brothers and Sisters of Labor:
Nov. 7, 2000 will be the most important election of the decade in Michigan. The Legislature we elect this year will draw the new boundaries for the Michigan House, Senate and Congressional districts. If one party controls both the House and the Senate after this election, that party will control this state for the next 10 years.
Now more than ever, it is important to get involved in your local campaigns and elections. Remember that the current Republican leadership in the State House hinged on 4 seats that were won by a slim margin. The smallest margin was 73 votes. The 4th closest race was only 538 votes. Combined, pro-labor forces lost the House by 1,236 votes. Directing volunteers to key House races will make the difference. With numbers that close, your volunteer effort can make the difference. An organized effort from union locals on behalf of a candidate will reap tremendous electoral victories. We need you to get engaged.
This election will be a fight for the future of Michigan because it will determine which direction we go as a state. It is also a fight for our families.
It's about job security, workplace safety, access to quality health care, a secure retirement, tax fairness and the protection of our environment.
In the past 18 months, we have watched the Republican majority chip away at union rights. We have watched them protect insurance companies and HMOs, rather than the patients they serve. We have watched them give away huge tax breaks to the wealthiest Michigan residents, while offering middle class families less than a dollar a week in tax savings.
We have watched them only offer punishment to people who live in "poor-performing" school districts, rather than the important help they need to improve. The current Republican leadership in state government hasn't lived up to the promises they made in the last election when they asked voters to approve the Clean Michigan Initiative bond proposal. The protection of our wildlife, preserving our natural resources and the quality of our water have become an after-thought, if a thought at all.
In recent years, when Republicans had control, they chipped away at workplace safety standards and gutted MIOSHA oversight. They also gutted workers compensation, and teachers' rights to strike without offering binding arbitration to settle grievances. This past year, they eliminated the right of school administrators to organize. Who's next? How long do you think it will be before they come after your bargaining rights?
This election will be about protecting your rights, and the security of your family. My House Democratic colleagues and I have an agenda to help families like yours achieve your goals. We want to improve public schools through smaller class sizes, high academic standards, and making sure teachers are properly trained and certified. Classrooms should be equipped with the most up-to-date computers and technology so our children can learn how to succeed. Schools also must be safe places to learn, where violent or disruptive students are removed from class and placed in alternative classrooms to learn discipline and respect.
House Democrats also want to help working families have better access to health care. We want medical decisions to be made by you and your doctor, not an insurance company bureaucrat. If someone in your family is pregnant, terminally ill or suffering from a chronic condition, they should not be forced to change doctors. We want to invest in health care programs that will help Michigan families be stronger and healthier.
House Democrats also want to make sure senior citizens have a secure, dignified retirement. No senior citizen should ever be forced to choose between buying a necessary prescription drug or putting food on the table. We have a plan to cut prescription drug costs in half for Michigan seniors. We also want to expand home health care services to 200,000 seniors who are not Medicaid-eligible. And to make sure our loved ones in nursing homes are receiving top quality care, we want to add more state inspectors for nursing homes so complaints are handled quickly.
I strongly encourage you to become involved with your local State House race. This year, we will be out-spent, but we know we have a strong agenda and message for Michigan families. For more information on House races, visit www.housedems2000.com on the Internet.
Volunteers are needed in several key races to help knock on doors, post yardsigns, stuff mailings, and help get out the vote.