The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, October 26, 2012

Flipping the state House another key to labor’s future

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – Can Democrats flip the state House?

For organized labor in Michigan, that question ranks right up there with Proposal 2 and the presidency when it comes to what’s really important on the Nov. 6 ballot. In the November 2010 election, Republican lawmakers in Michigan maintained control of the state Senate, but they also gained a whopping 19 seats to gain a 63-47 advantage in the House, which they currently hold.

And with that advantage, the GOP lawmakers went to work with their cohorts in the Senate and Gov. Snyder. A bushel of anti-worker bills now approaching 100 have been documented by the Michigan AFL-CIO, including cuts to senior pensions to pay for a business tax cut, reductions in workers comp and jobless benefit weeks, and not allowing local units of government to collect union dues.

In the Nov. 6 general election, can Democrats pick up eight seats to win a tie in the House, or even nine to win the majority? Such a win would likely immediately push Republicans into a lame duck frenzy through the end of the 2012, passing even more anti-worker legislation on top of the havoc they have already wreaked. But long-term, organized labor and working people would finally get a vote in how the state is being run.

“There are rumblings,” writes Off the Record host Tim Skubick, “that the Republicans themselves are a tad nervous about losing control (of the House). In fact one report from a knowledgeable source suggests a post-election November lame duck agenda of conservative GOP issues is being considered, just in case the Democrats pull this off. There is a path for Democrats to get there, although it’s not a sure thing.”

Skubick pointed out that with Democrats controlling the House, they along with their friends in labor would gain “veto power and a fire wall to block the GOP Governor’s agenda.” He wrote that much will be determined by the get-out-the-vote effort for President Obama, and whether he has coattails on the ballot. And of course, the energy surrounding the push to pass Proposal 2 may further spur voters to the polls.

“We have an outstanding chance to stop the Republican attack on working people with Proposal 2 on the ballot,” said Michigan Laborers District Council Legislative Director Jonathan Byrd. “But it’s also important for people to look on their ballot for the state House. There are a lot of Democratic candidates that our building trades members can find common ground with, they’re avid sportsmen who aren’t looking to take anyone’s guns away. Winning back the state House would be great for organized labor in Michigan.”