The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 12, 2014

Peters for Senate: 'We need to fight for union rights'

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

DETROIT – It’s not difficult to see how Washington D.C. becomes like Lansing.

Currently, Republicans comfortably control the U.S. House, and Democrats hold a 55-45 lead in the Senate, but that lead could easily be flipped in the Nov. 4, 2014 election, giving the GOP full control of both houses of Congress in President Obama’s next two terms. And then, if nothing changes in Congress, and a Republican is voted into the presidency in 2016, organized labor in the U.S. can look to Michigan -with our new right-to-work law and a zeroed-in target on the backs of organized labor – as a model for what’s coming.

“With partisan control of the Senate up for grabs, Michigan’s race this year is a nationally significant one,” said the National Journal. One of the keys to the whole situation is a Michigan guy running for U.S. Senate, Democratic Congressman Gary Peters. If he defeats Republican Terry Lynn Land in the Nov. 4, election, it’s one less seat that organized labor has to worry about.

“That’s why the labor movement in this country is so important,” Peters said to the Detroit Labor Day audience. “They lift the standards for everybody in this country. I will fight to make sure collective bargaining is not diminished; we need to fight for union rights.”

Peters, 55, is seeking to replace Sen. Carl Levin, who is retiring this year after serving 36 years in the Senate. Peters said he would attempt to continue the pro-worker legacy left by Levin, who was a strong advocate for unions and working people. Peters said the Koch Brothers, billionaires from Kansas who are moving their money into conservative causes and elections around the country have already spent $6.5 million against his campaign. “These guys don’t care about Michigan, these guys want a national right-to-work law,” he said.

Various publications have noted that Land has been next to impossible to pin down on issues like right-to-work and the federal backing of GM and Chrysler to save those automakers from bankruptcy. Land has not made herself available for interviews, has not agreed to debate Peters, and doesn’t do town hall meetings.

“Peters previously has drawn attention to recorded statements Land made at a Republican National Convention event two years ago,”  the Washington Examinersaid, “in which she backed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s anti-bailout position. Asked about Romney and the bailout, she told the Washington Timesthen, ‘I’m with him on that.’ ” Peters countered on Labor Day: “As Democrats we bet on the American people and we were right, and they were wrong.”

Land’s lack of availability to media questioning have made many question whether she’s ready for the office of U.S. senator. She became the default choice when other Republicans like Mike Rogers and David Camp declined to pursue the Senate seat. “There have always been doubts about whether she can do it; whether she has command of the issues, the forensic skills, whether she can deal with the media,” said Bill Ballenger to the National Review. He’s a former Republican state legislator and founder of the newsletter Inside Michigan Politics. “She has done, in my view, some things that simply underscore all the doubts and qualms about her — not only from Democrats and the media but from people in her own party.”

There’s not much room between Peters and organized labor. He has a record as congressman of  supporting minimum wage, prevailing wage, federal aid to the automakers, equal pay for women, as well as support for not cutting Medicaid or Social Security.

“There are millions being spend in this state against what we believe in,” Peters said. “Our democracy is on the line. We can’t let out-of-state interests determine who represents us. We will show that it is the people who still rule.”

Gary Peters talks to the Detroit Labor Day crowd. Peters has been endorsed for U.S. Senate by the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council.