NOVI - Union members and their families were urged to get out and vote on Election Day, Nov. 8 - but not just for one of the two people running for president at the top of the ballot.
About 150 union members and supporters attended a get-out-the-vote rally on Saturday morning, Oct. 22 at the Iron Workers Local 25 union hall. On hand to rally the attendees were Iron Workers International Union General President Eric Dean, Heat and Frost Insulators General President James "Bud" McCourt and Secretary-Treasurer Greg Revard and Michigan House of Representatives Minority Leader Tim Greimel (D- Auburn Hills).
"Michigan has had some troubled times the past few years," said Revard, a former business manager of Michigan Insulators Local 47. "We lost the state House, we lost the Senate, we lost the governor to conservative lawmakers, and what we got was right to work, and it has affected our wages and benefits. We nearly lost prevailing wage. We're here to emphasize that this election isn't just about the presidency. It's about other races, for school boards, county commissioners, those are often people who vote on our issues now, and when they move on to other positions. We have a tough job ahead to get our state back, but it begins by winning our state by voting for lawmakers who support working people."
Greimel would become speaker of the Michigan House if Democrats could overturn a daunting, but doable, 61-46 Republican advantage on Election Day. Elections for the state Senate and governor positions are not on this year's ballot.
"There have been almost six years of one-party (Republican) rule in Lansing, and this year every single seat, 110, is up in the House," Greimel told the crowd. "And there's a very clear distinction between the parties."
Greimel said Republicans did "three things, all terrible" during this past legislative session, including passing a "joke" of a road funding plan that won't kick in fully until 2021. They also refused to adopt legislation that shines light on where political money is coming from. "And Republicans continued to push the repeal of prevailing wage," he said. "You know, I never met a single voter who said the thing we need to jump start Michigan's economy is to lower wages."
State Democrats, he said, would push policies that would support education, increase road funding and investments in local infrastructure and energy. "We believe that hard-working men and women in Michigan deserve a pay raise, not a pay cut," Greimel said.
While it has been said that all politics is local, there's room for argument this year. News involving the race for president between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has overwhelmed talk over the national airwaves by the news media, and conversations at work over the water cooler.
The speakers at the rally also weighed in with labor's perspective on Clinton vs. Trump.
Dean said the Iron Workers' case for supporting Clinton and opposing Trump wouldn't involve any lectures, just facts. He said a year ago their membership voted to support Clinton, Bernie Sanders and Trump, in that order, and the case against Trump kept being revealed as 2016 passed by. He said Trump "doesn't build union unless he has to," has regularly cheated his contractors out of money they were owed, and said 'I support right-to-work 100 percent.' We could not possibly support Donald Trump," Dean said.
Clinton, he said, has an infrastructure bank plan ready that will put thousands of building trades workers to work. She supports a "responsible" energy policy, and does not support prevailing wage repeal, Dean said, adding that as a U.S. senator, Clinton was at the forefront of providing help for 911 first-responders.
"Hillary will also decide on the next Supreme Court nominee, and I'd like to point out that last January we were one week away from a Supreme Court decision that would have made the entire country de facto right to work," Dean said. "Then Justice Scalia died.
"So for all those factors, I can't stress enough the importance of our members getting out and voting."
The Insulators' McCourt said Clinton was the only candidate of the two willing to sit down with union representatives during the campaign season. "'Labor will have a seat at the table - with a voice,' she told us," McCourt related. "No one else said that, and that's the kind of person that we need in the president of the United States."
He said Clinton would continue the trend established by President Obama of installing not only labor-friendly Supreme Court justices, but will make appointments to all manner of government panels and positions, like OSHA and the National Labor Relations Board. The NLRB has been especially worker-friendly the past two years, handing down numerous rulings that help workers in the areas of enhanced overtime pay and easier union organizing. "This is why elections matter," McCourt said.
"You sit and talk with her, she gets us, she understands multiemployer pension benefits, prevailing wage, project labor agreements," McCourt added. "She understands the essential core of the labor movement. That's why we say, 'Hardhats for Hillary.'"