The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, June 14, 2019

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Whitmer puts 'Labor' back in Labor Dept.

LANSING - Labor has a department to call its own in state government - again.

On June 6 Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that she would be reorganizing the Department of Talent and Economic Development, renaming it the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity (LEO). It was also announced that Jeff Donofrio, Detroit's executive director of workforce development, would be named to head the department.

In recent years the word "Labor" has been removed (by Republican governors) from state departments during reorganizations, or inserted (by Democrat governors), usually at the beginning of their terms. “This new department will make Michigan a home for opportunity by improving how our state approaches workforce and economic development to ensure that everyone has a path to a high-paying job,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer's excutive order restructures the Department of Talent and Economic Development by rebranding it as LEO. The order consolidates into a single entity all of the state's workforce and economic development functions, which were previously scattered between various departments, the governor said. 

Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber said he likes the name change. “Our state’s economy is driven by the labor of the working men and women of this state," he said. "It makes perfect sense that all agencies related to labor and economic development be placed under one coordinated effort. This reorganization is thoughtful leadership from Governor Whitmer that will benefit the working families of this state. For too long, the working people of Michigan have paid the price of being used as pawns in a politicized process that favored corporate special interests. It’s time to make the people of Michigan a priority again."

Said Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council President Steve Claywell: "Today, Michigan's economy is driven by labor - working men and women in the state. It makes great sense for all of the agencies to be placed under one department. We appreciate the Governor's leadership on this initiative to put working men and women in their place in this state - and that's to lead."

Enbridge is a go on utility tunnel

Enbridge said on June 5 that it would continue to move forward with planning for a utility tunnel under the Straits of Mackinac "regardless" of talks with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The tunnel would encapsulate the notorious "Line 5" petroleum pipeline that currently sits atop the lake bed in a tunnel far below the Straits. The tunnel is seen by many, including former Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed off on the deal - as the best option to address the hazard of a potential leak or anchor strike on the existing pipeline. Whitmer has said she is conducting her own review of the new tunnel, while state Attorney General Dana Nessel has issued an opinion that the previous administration's tunnel authority is invalid.

Enbridge said on May 30 that construction could go quicker than they have said in the past. "Assuming we are able to move through the permitting process without delay, we believe the tunnel can be under construction in 2021 and in service as soon as early 2024," the company said in a May 30 statement. The project's cost would be up to $500 million.