The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, March 20, 2020

Whitmer to building trades: ‘We put labor back where it belongs with a real seat at the table’

By Jillian Otten



LANSING - Following are a selection of remarks made by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council Legislative Conference delegates on March 3 in Lansing. The building trades were the first union group to endorse Whitmer's candidacy for governor.

"I would not be the 49th governor of the great State of Michigan without the building trades. So thank you for helping me get into a position where I can do a lot of work on behalf of working people in this state. To lift up organized labor. To be proud to have been a union member myself. And to be proud to set an agenda that respects the hardest working people in this state. To make sure that you have the ability to get ahead in Michigan. 

"I am fortunate to have relationships with people in this room. You have helped make me a better candidate, you have helped make me a better governor. And together we're making a big difference for the people of Michigan.

"We have our challenges, no question about it. I would love to be able to do something about changing the right-to-work law in Michigan. 

"Since I took over as governor 14 months ago, we've done a lot of good things. We've announced more union jobs, good-paying union jobs in Michigan, just in the last 14 months than the last guy did in the last five years. 

"I created a department with labor in mind, it's called the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity. Because that is a strength, that is how we built the middle class in Michigan. The whole country benefited because of labor, and it's important to me and it's important to my friends in organized labor that we have a department that acknowledges that. 

"So the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is headed by Jeff Donofrio, someone with whom we worked very closely to make sure we got the right leader who shares our values and cares about working people in our state. We put labor back where it belongs with a real seat at the table, with union members like Sean Egan in charge over at LEO, and I think that's a great strength.

"And last year I led with a plan to fix the damn roads, I ran on fixing the damn roads and had a plan that actually would do it. And this group of legislators not only wouldn't embrace the plan, they never countered with anything serious. You know how these guys suggested we fix the roads? They said we should sell some bridges. I'm not making this up. Some of them said let's dip into the teachers' pension fund to pay for the roads. Those are the solutions they put on the table and that's why this year I said I'm done playing games We're going to move forward with a $3.5 billion bond, and we're going to move some dirt this year with good union jobs and start rebuilding the great state of Michigan.

"And the beauty of this plan is No. 1, I didn't have to go through the legislature, and No. 2, we're going to focus on the roads that are in the worst condition, ones that are the most traveled on by Michiganders. And No. 3, it gives us the ability to maximize federal funding and ensure that Davis Bacon (prevailing wage) is a reality on those projects. So we are going to fix the damn roads. We're going to get work this year and employ hard-working union folks to do it, so that we can have confidence that it's a program that benefits Michiganders in a variety of ways. 

"Now I do have a lot of obstacles in this town. One of them happens to be the legislature. You know that as well as anyone. And I'm still dealing with the effects of the incredible business tax cut that was paid for by taxing pensions and cutting schools. That is something that I'm trying to reverse as well. These guys are still dealing with the consequences of me winning the election. They're not happy about some of the stuff that I've done. They're mad about some of the labor peace agreements I'm trying to get, even in the marijuana space. But I am determined to make sure that hard-working people have the protections they need in the state of Michigan. 

"So, elections do have consequences, and that means as we prepare for 2020, there are four seats that are standing between my being able to see an agenda all the way through to the finish line, or just being a goalie to stop bad things from happening. Four seats in the state House are the difference between Democrats controlling one chamber of the state Legislature, and me dealing with a totally Republican-controlled state Legislature. That's what 2020 has got to be all about. I don't know who you guys are voting for the in the presidential, but this election in November is going to impact all of these races. 

"This is really an important moment. The whole world, and that's not an exaggeration, the whole world, is going to be looking at Michigan. Michigan decided the last big election, and it's going to decide this next big election. And this is a fundamental question about who we are and where we want to be headed. As a country, and as a state. I am proud to have had your support. I am grateful for your friendship and your enthusiasm, and you bolster me even on the toughest days, and believe me, there have been some tough days with this legislature. But I am confident now more than ever that we are on a path to real meaningful change, change that means hard-working people have more opportunity. My responsibility is to you, and your responsibility is to your family and your co-workers. 

"And I know that you can count on me and I can count on you. Let's not let anyone else in the state down."


MICHIGAN GOV. Gretchen Whitmer addresses delegates to the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council’s 61st Legislative Conference at the Radisson Hotel in Lansing on March 3. With her on the dais are MBCTC Secretary-Treas. Pat Devlin and President Steve Claywell.