The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, January 31, 2014

Labor leaders say what Snyder left unsaid in State of the State speech

By The Building Tradesman

LANSING – Gov. Rick Snyder’s state of the state speech on Jan. 16 went heavy on “benchmarks,” statistics and self-congratulation about his perception of Michigan’s progress, but it was light on most everything else.

“Let’s stand up,” Snyder concluded, “and let the citizens of Michigan know, we are not going to let them down, that they can count on us to deliver, to make Michigan the comeback state, not just for three years, but for the next few decades, to make us back on the top again.”

There was no mention for instance, of him putting his signature on a pair of right-to-work bills a year ago in Michigan – capping the most divisive, important and expensive legislative effort in the state’s history.

“The first-term governor took listeners on a ride through Michigan’s proclaimed economic progress since his 2010 election as he primes for the 2014 election season, contending with likely Democratic nominee Mark Schauer,” said MIRS News Service. “Snyder spent 35 minutes reflecting on his accomplishments during the last three years. Less than 15 minutes were spent on a smattering of lower-profile legislative initiatives, including passage of a resolution endorsing a federal balanced budget amendment.”

Some voices in the state’s organized labor community piped up after the speech and reminded Michigan that Snyder might have been overlooking a few things. A selection of their comments follow:

Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer, Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council: “I guess it’s too much to expect Snyder to have acknowledged our right-to-work law, because there’s nothing to brag about. He knows right-to-work has not brought more jobs to Michigan, and will not bring more jobs to Michigan. He’d like to sweep right-to-work under the rug, as well as all the other anti-labor legislation he’s signed.”

Karla Swift, president of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “Tonight’s State of the State speech was remarkable for the important topics that were omitted. Gov. Snyder failed to address the priorities that matter most for working families, Michigan has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.  Yet Snyder’s policies continue to giveaway tax dollars to corporate special interests without any firm commitments for job creation.  These bargains for CEOs are coming at the expense of seniors, students and workers.”

David Hecker, president of the American Federation of Teachers – Michigan. “Tonight, Gov. Rick Snyder disappointed every person across Michigan who values public education. Unfortunately for Michigan schools, his rhetoric doesn’t pay the bills.  He failed to address how he was going to reverse the devastating funding cuts to neighborhood schools and public colleges and universities. If Snyder truly believes that education is a priority, then he would find a way to undo his debilitating funding cuts to schools that were used to pay for a tax giveaway to big businesses and he would use the budget surplus to properly fund every level of education in Michigan.”

Lonnie Scott, executive director of Progress Michigan. “During Gov. Snyder’s fourth State of the State we heard, once again, from Snyder how he’s more interested in helping big business and campaign contributors than middle class families. However, it’s not just what Snyder did say during his speech, but his continued silence on minimum wage, equal pay, and equality for LGBT individuals that spoke louder than his relentless rhetoric tonight.”

Geno Alessandrini, business manager of the Michigan Laborers District Council.  “Lawmakers continue to ignore long overdue repairs to Michigan’s infrastructure and we need Gov. Snyder to show leadership, on this issue in 2014. Thousands of trained laborers across the state are ready to hit the streets, literally, to build and repair Michigan’s roads making them safer for our family, friends and neighbors.”

“By truly prioritizing and repairing Michigan roads, Gov. Snyder would be encouraging job growth by enhancing the quality of life needed to make the state more attractive to businesses.”