The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 21, 2018

He said, she said... Labor Day brings out the differences between Whitmer, Schuette

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

In 2012 she called the state's right-to-work law "petty and vindictive politics at its most disgusting." He supports right-to-work, and as the state's attorney general in 2013 went out of his way to argue in court that the RTW law applies to the state's public workers. 

He supported repeal of Michigan's prevailing wage law, writing that it's "unfair, outdated and doesn’t work toward moving Michigan forward." She called prevailing wage repeal "one of the dumbest votes the legislature has ever taken."

In a June statement made after the U.S. Supreme Court's Janus ruling -which effectively imposed right-to-work on all public employees in the U.S. - she said "America’s middle class is under attack by Republicans like Donald Trump, Rick Snyder and Bill Schuette, who are rigging the rules of our economy to favor their billionaire donors over regular working people." His response in support of RTW for all: "First Amendment rights have once again prevailed in America."

The He Said/She Said comments are brought to you by Republican Michigan Attorney General William Schuette, who is facing off for Michigan governor against Democrat Gretchen Whitmer, the former minority leader in the Michigan Senate. The general election is set for Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Schuette, 64, has been the state's attorney general since 2011. He has also served as a congressman, director of the state's Department of Agriculture, Michigan state senator and as a judge of the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Whitmer, 47, an attorney, served in the Michigan State House of Representatives from 2000-2006 and in the state Senate from 2006-2014, serving as minority leader for the last three years of that term. She also served as Ingham County prosecutor for six months in 2016, filling out the term of the incumbent, who resigned.

Whitmer was invited to participate in the Detroit Labor Day Parade, where she walked along Michigan Avenue behind the Carpenters and Millwrights banner with union members. Just before the start of the march she said she "is and always will be a proud supporter of Michigan's working people." 

"There couldn't be a more stark difference between candidates," Whitmer told us. "Especially on issues related to unions, workers' rights, collective bargaining and wages. There are clear lines drawn regarding who will support workers, and who won't. I think I made my stance clear when I opened the doors to my office in the Capitol Building in 2012 to working people and led the fight against right-to-work."

Schuette, not surprisingly, was not anywhere near the half-dozen union-related Labor Day parades and rallies around Michigan, choosing to spend the day campaigning at the Michigan State Fair in Novi, while making  campaign stops in Franklin, Romeo, Royal Oak and Holland, where there were no union banners to be found. 

And there was no mention of "union" in his Labor Day message. “Michigan has the toughest, hardest-working people in America and we are proud of them,” said Schuette in his Labor Day message.  “Despite struggling through the Lost Decade, they persevered and helped drive Michigan’s turnaround and for that I salute them.  Together, we have made progress and we are not going back. We are going forward.”

Whitmer has earned endorsements from the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council, the state AFL-CIO, the UAW, the Michigan Association of Police Organizations, and the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, among others.

Schuette has been endorsed by the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Michigan Farm Bureau, the Small Business Association of Michigan, the Michigan Realtors, the Police Officers Association of Michigan and the Associated Builders and Contractors - Michigan, among others.

The latter endorsement is most telling. The ABC-Michigan, of course, infamously sponsored two petition drives over the past three years intended to repeal the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act. The second one succeeded, garnering barely enough signatures, and then the ABC's friends in state Legislature barely adopted it in early June. Now Michigan's entire construction workforce is looking down the barrel at lower wages and industry turmoil. 

“ABC is all about the free market, free enterprise, and entrepreneurism,” Schuette said in accepting their endorsement on Aug. 14.  “Not only are they rebuilding Michigan, but they are training our workforce for the thousands of unfilled skilled trades jobs Michigan needs to grow. I am proud to have their support and as governor I will work with them to ensure we are training our workforce to meet our growing needs.”

For their part, the ABC only has eyes for Schuette. If Whitmer were to be elected governor, and the highly unlikely scenario plays out where both the state House and Senate flip to become controlled by a Democratic majority, the prevailing wage law could be reinstated and right-to-work could be overturned. “The choice could not be clearer in the race for Governor,” said Jeff Wiggins, spokesman for ABC of Michigan. “Bill Schuette has the experience and the tenacity to keep our state on the path to more jobs and higher paychecks by embracing the free enterprise principles that made this country great.”

The Michigan AFL-CIO, representing 42 unions and over one million active and retired union members across the state, endorsed Whitmer in April. 

“Working people in Michigan need a governor who will be in our corner,” said Ron Bieber, president of the state AFL-CIO. “That’s why we’re endorsing Gretchen, because she’s a strong progressive leader who’s always had the backs of working families, and she’s the only candidate in this race with a real plan to fix the damn roads and create more good-paying jobs for Michigan. Our members are ready to roll up their sleeves, knock on doors, make phone calls, and get out the vote to help elect Gretchen as our next governor.”