LANSING - If some balance isn't restored to state government, the next decade will likely be a debacle for working people in the State of Michigan.
That was the message heard loud and clear Feb. 29-March 1 at the 42nd Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council State Legislative Conference held at the Radisson Hotel.
Building trades delegates from around the state gathered to learn more about labor's looming dilemma - the strong possibility of working under a state government whose anti-union tendencies would be even more entrenched than they are now.
But delegates also heard about plans for a reinvigorated labor movement, one with a specific timeline and objectives designed to fertilize the grass roots and get out the vote in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 7.
"This election matters," said State Rep. Julie Dennis, (D-Muskegon). "If Republicans have their way on Nov. 7 (Election Day), they will redistrict this state so they can control it for the next 10 years."
Most of labor's energies will be focused on winning back a majority of the state House of Representatives - seen as more winnable than the state Senate - and the Michigan Supreme Court. Republicans enjoy a 58-52 majority in the state House, but that margin was earned by only a few thousand votes in a few key districts.
And on the supposedly nonpartisan Michigan Supreme Court, three of the seven seats are up for grabs in November, and labor-backed candidates need to win two of them in order to gain a worker-friendly majority. Such a majority would also provide some balance to the process of redistricting legislative boundaries, a process which takes place every 10 years and often winds up in the courts.
The anti-worker agenda of the great majority of Republicans in Michigan is clear. Over the last several years, the right of school administrators to join a union has been rescinded, and stiff penalties for striking teachers have been imposed. A bill to allow workers to take compensatory time off (but only at times dictated by the employer) in lieu of overtime pay has been introduced.
Also on the plates of Republicans is a "Paycheck Protection" bill (Democrats call it "Paycheck Deception") which would institute enormous bookkeeping requirements for unions concerning the spending of dues money for political purposes.
And always lurking in the background is legislation to rescind the state's prevailing wage law and a proposal to make Michigan a right-to-work state.