The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 15, 2000

Positions, everyone - Issues more in focus as election season advances

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor

With the airwaves filled with election rhetoric already for much of the year, few Americans would mind if we returned to the tradition of making Labor Day the kickoff point of the presidential campaign season.

Labor Day is now seen as more of a marker for candidates to gear up their campaigns, and this year, the gears were being shifted in Michigan. Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore, his running mate Joe Lieberman and GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush all made the rounds in Michigan, which is widely recognized as a tremendously important state in this year's Nov. 7 general election.

On Sept. 4, thousands of labor union members took to the streets of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Marquette for annual Labor Day celebrations. Lieberman was on hand to talk to union members after the Detroit march

"Our No. 1 goal is to keep the prosperity going and make sure that it enriches all of America's families, not just a privileged few," Lieberman said.

Gore and Lieberman on Labor Day completed a 24-hour marathon campaign schedule, where they talked to workers in six states. Gore made a stop in Flint, where he told workers, "We're doing it to honor your work."

Lieberman joked in Detroit, "This has been a heck of a 24 hours. I'm beginning to think vice presidential candidates should have collective bargaining rights."

Hard campaigning is going to help, but the vote of the American people is going to be swayed by what each candidate has to offer in terms of policies and issues. Following are the stances of candidates Gore and Bush on some of the issues that affect working people. More will come in future editions.

Issue: The Davis-Bacon Act - The most important pocketbook issue to the nation's construction workforce - both union and nonunion - this 69-year-old federal law was set up to assure that out-of-state or unscrupulous contractors with a low-paid workforce can't win federally funded construction project bids based on paying their workers a low wage.

The importance of this law to the incomes of all construction workers can't be overstated. The law means financial stability, security and a decent standard of living.

Federal tax dollars are spent in areas such as road building, school construction, military installations, and municipal buildings. If a Republican Congress stays in control in Washington after the Nov. 4 election, there's a great chance that a Davis-Bacon repeal bill will land on the president's desk. If the president repeals Davis-Bacon, it's only a matter of time before the wage levels of construction workers go down.

Where the candidates stand:

Gore: Has fought anti-worker measures throughout his time in Congress and as vice president. He would veto the bill.

Bush: Governs a right-to-work state and is on record as opposing Davis-Bacon. (Source: AFL-CIO Report on Congress).

Issue: Minimum wage - When Congress passed the minimum wage increase in 1996-1997, those who benefited most were older than 20 - not teenagers looking for extra cash. Of those older than 20, 40 percent were the sole breadwinner in their families

Congressional Democrats have called for raising the minimum wage this year from the current $5.15 per hour to $6.15 per hour. Republicans have resisted the idea, claiming that it would be too costly to business.

Where the candidates stand:

Gore: Supported raising the minimum wage when the issue came up when he was in Congress in 1977, 1988 and 1989. He also called on Congress to raise the wage in 1998, 1999 and 2000.

Bush: As Texas governor, he opposed increasing and extending the minimum wage three times. He has not supported or introduced legislation to increase the state minimum wage for agricultural or domestic workers, which is $3.35 an hour. (Such workers are exempt from the federal law). In fact, on March 9, Bush supported a House amendment allowing states to be exempt from coverage by the federal minimum wage law. (Source: New York Post).

Issue: Workers' rights - This a black or white topic: does the candidate favor workers or companies?

Where the candidates stand:

Gore: Opposes striker replacement, supports workers' right to organize, and opposes company unions.

Bush: Touts his state's anti-union policies and the Texas Department of Economic Development brags about the state's low wages and anti-labor climate. (Source: WNBT-TV, News Forum). Publication In These Times reports that business groups "are confident that he will greatly weaken OSHA and kill the ergonomics standard if they can delay its implementation until 2001."

DEMOCRATIC Vice Presidential candidate Joe Lieberman works the crowd in Detroit on Labor Day. For more Labor Day photos see Pg. 10.

PAINTERS DC 22 members march in the Detroit Labor Day Parade.