The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, April 08, 2011

Rally time: Trades ready to make their voices heard

By Marty Mulcahy, Editor



LANSING – Building trades union workers from across Michigan are asked to converge on the steps of the State Capitol Building on Wednesday, April 13 as part of a “We are the people” rally to protest a myriad of anti-worker, Tea Party-fueled Republican legislation.

The rally will take place that day from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. in front of the Capitol Building – where the lawn will likely have a difficult time getting growing this spring due to the constant treading by protestors from around the state. Attendees are asked to wear their union colors.

With no less than 37 anti-union and anti-worker pieces of legislation on state lawmakers’ docket, construction workers, teachers, municipal workers, cops, firefighters, and senior citizens not wanting a cut in their pension have come to Lansing in waves this year to protest what’s happening in state government.

“We’ve seen some bad legislation pass already this term, and there’s more on deck,” said Patrick Devlin, secretary-treasurer of the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council. “Our purpose with this rally is to make sure that labor’s voice isn’t going to be lost amid this sea of anti-union, anti-worker legislation. We really need to have a good showing to show our solidarity, and to get our people fired up to contact their lawmakers to convince them not to further any more of this legislation that’s only going to help kill good-paying jobs and the middle class in this state.”

Michigan’s Republican lawmakers in the House and Senate are currently considering bills that would repeal the Michigan Prevailing Wage Act, likely creating an instant cut in wages for thousands of trades workers on state-funded projects.

Republicans are also considering two separate proposals that would end the ability of both the state and local school districts to enter into project labor agreements.

Passage of either would be a huge blow to both the organized construction industry and its contractors.
The state’s Republicans have also introduced bills to repeal MIOSHA and place Michigan under federal OSHA’s less-watchful, non-local control. Another bill would outlaw the ability of stewards or other union reps to conduct union business on taxpayer-funded property.

Still another bill would introduce right-to-work zones in Michigan, allowing local governments to create their own districts where free-riders can enjoy the benefits of union representation, without paying dues.

“We are not Wisconsin,” Gov. Rick Snyder told the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council at their legislative conference last month. He said his focus “is not on finding areas to fight.”

But actions speak louder than words, and so far, the governor and Republicans who completely control the levers of power in state government have not been hesitant to pick fights with various constituencies.

  • Senior citizens are howling mad at the governor’s proposal to tax their pensions, although their lobbying may sway Republican lawmakers to make changes.
  • On March 28, Snyder signed a Republican bill that permanent reduces – from 26 weeks to 20 weeks – unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. Republicans said the bill was intended to lower costs to make Michigan more business-friendly.
  • All of organized labor, and many municipalities and school districts continue to be outraged over the passage of the Emergency Financial Manager law, which the Republican legislature adopted and Snyder signed last month. The law gives the governor sweeping new powers to toss out collective bargaining agreements, contracts, as well as the ability to hire and fire workers at will in communities and school districts that are deemed (by the governor) to be in a financial meltdown.

Scores of cities and school districts in Michigan are in such dire shape that they could be placed under financial management.

“These emergency managers will have the ability to remove elected officials elected by the people of Michigan,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. “ As hundreds of thousands have chanted in Wisconsin, ‘This is not what democracy looks like.’

“Democracy is following the will of the people, and Michiganders spoke out loud and clear in November . Working families want the politicians to set aside agendas and come together to focus on strengthening our economy.”

The Capitol Building is located at the corner of South Capitol between West Allegan and Ottawa Street.

  • Senior citizens are howling mad at the governor’s proposal to tax their pensions, although their lobbying may sway Republican lawmakers to make changes.
  • On March 28, Snyder signed a Republican bill that permanent reduces – from 26 weeks to 20 weeks – unemployment benefits for laid-off workers. Republicans said the bill was intended to lower costs to make Michigan more business-friendly.
  • All of organized labor, and many municipalities and school districts continue to be outraged over the passage of the Emergency Financial Manager law, which the Republican legislature adopted and Snyder signed last month. The law gives the governor sweeping new powers to toss out collective bargaining agreements, contracts, as well as the ability to hire and fire workers at will in communities and school districts that are deemed (by the governor) to be in a financial meltdown.
Scores of cities and school districts in Michigan are in such dire shape that they could be placed under financial management. “These emergency managers will have the ability to remove elected officials elected by the people of Michigan,” said Michigan AFL-CIO President Mark Gaffney. “ As hundreds of thousands have chanted in Wisconsin, ‘This is not what democracy looks like.’ “Democracy is following the will of the people, and Michiganders spoke out loud and clear in November. Working families want the politicians to set aside agendas and come together to focus on strengthening our economy.” The Capitol Building is located at the corner of South Capitol between West Allegan and Ottawa Street.