The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index

October 25, 2002

No. 1 priority: Good voter turnout on Nov. 5

Time to bring building trades 'back to the table' in Michigan politics

Granholm's goal: taking this state back for the working families of Michigan

As AG, Peters pledges to take building trades' case

Hollowell wants to streamline election process, improve voter education



No. 1 priority: Good voter turnout on Nov. 5

Other numbers reveal what's at stake in election

The process of restoring balance to state government in 2002 will be a numbers game -and the stakes are high for Michigan's working people.

Before the votes are counted on Nov. 5, the most important number is registered voters - there are 6.9 million of them in Michigan, which amounts to about 58 percent of the voting age population. Which political party does the best job of getting its constituency out to the polls on Nov. 5 is, of course, crucial to the outcome.

On a statewide level, Republicans are hoping to retain the stranglehold they have held on state government since John Engler became governor in 1990. During that time, Republicans have always had the ruling majority in the state Senate, and only briefly have they relinquished power in the state House. And there are other local and statewide races that are as important, such as races for Congress, secretary of state, attorney general, and seats on the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals.

In the 2000 presidential election, 27 percent of Michigan residents who voted were union members, and 43 percent had a union member in their household. The same survey showed Democrat Al Gore won 64 percent of the vote from union members in Michigan.

Those are historically high turnout numbers for Michigan union members, and labor leaders are hoping for similar participation from members this year.

By the numbers, following is a breakdown of some of the key candidates and issues in the Nov. 2 election:

One on one: The head-to-head debates between Granholm and Posthumus earlier this month, plus all the ads and political literature, have illustrated some of the candidates' differences, but it also highlighted their similarities.

Granholm is the choice of organized labor because she has a record in words and deeds as state attorney general of standing up for the interests of working people - not big corporations. She has defended the state Prevailing Wage Act. She has vigorously opposed efforts to privatize Blue Cross Blue Shield. She has also continued Frank Kelley's tradition as attorney general of defending the interests of consumers.

With a huge state budget deficit looming, she's a realist - she has proposed a 5 percent decrease in each state department's budget. But she has pledged to temper the cuts with some humanity. "As we tighten our belts, we must not harden our hearts," she said.

Posthumus also has a public record, having been a state senator for 16 years before becoming lieutenant governor in 1998.

He voted against prevailing wage five times. He supports privatizing Blue Cross. He supported the controversial "waiting week" before laid off workers receive unemployment benefits. He has voted to tax unemployment benefits, and has voted to gut school employee collective bargaining. He sponsored four bills in 1987 that would protect the personal assets of corporate directors from lawsuits by shareholders.

The Michigan AFL-CIO said Posthumus has voted with working families only 5 percent of the time.

$1 billion. That staggering amount, or a little less, is the deficit in the state budget that will have to be met head-on by the incoming governor, whether it's Jennifer Granholm or Dick Posthumus. Neither candidate has talked much specifically about how they will reduce that deficit.
Whichever candidate wins, they will be walking into an instant fiscal headache left by Gov. John Engler, who implemented a plan to cover this year's budget by having state taxpayers pay their school taxes earlier.

23-15. That's the margin by which the Michigan Senate is controlled by Republicans - and compared to the state House, it's seen as the best hope for Democrats to regain control of some legislative power in Lansing, besides the governor's chair.

To win a majority in the Senate, Dems will have to retain the 15 seats they have, and then win four more seats to at least gain a tie. If they tie, the lieutenant governor casts the deciding vote. Winning a majority in Michigan is doable, said Flint Sen. Bob Emerson, who heads the Democratic campaign committee.

"I think we've got 15 seats we consider safe," he said, "and in 10 races, polling shows we're ahead or within the margin of error." Republican campaign committee chief Ken Sikkema, told one of the daily newspapers, "we have to be optimistic about our prospects, but there are a lot of tight races. Usually three to five races are in play; here, there are as many as a dozen."

58-52. That's the margin by which the Michigan House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans. But due to redistricting in 2000, a process which was controlled by Republicans, it will be especially difficult for Democrats to gain seats in the House.

100 U.S. Senators. That's the number of lawmakers in the upper chamber of the U.S. Congress, and exactly half of them are Democrats. Dems control the Senate because there are 49 Republican senators and 1 Independent.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin is on the ballot this year - but he is not expected to have much difficulty beating Republican opponent, Andrew Raczowski.

But there are several competitive senate races across the country, said Charles Cook, publisher of the Cook Political Report, a newsletter that tracks House and Senate races, and he said it's impossible to predict which party will earn a majority in the Senate

435 U.S. House Members. Currently, there are 223 Republicans and they control the House. There are also 210 Democrats and two independent in the House.

Michigan will have 15 run-offs for congressional seats around the state, and only a few races are expected to be competitive.

Like the U.S. Senate, predicting which party will control the House is a toss-up. CNN Senior Political Analyst Bill Schneider says the House and Senate will continue to hold slim majorities after the Nov. 5 balloting. The election simply will determine which party will be in control.

"You could end up with a Democratic House and a Republican Senate," Schneider said. "That could happen, but it won't be a very big margin. We're not seeing any real tilt in the landscape."

Democrats need to pick up six seats in the House, but Cook said that's going to be difficult. "How does anybody score a net gain of a half-dozen seats when there are so few targets and pretty much balance in terms of vulnerability?" Cook said. "It's awfully hard."

Three Congressional seats. That's how many positions Republicans are likely to gain in Michigan as a result of redistricting. Democratic Congressman David Bonior, who saw that his district would be difficult to win because of redistricting, chose to run for Michigan governor. Slow population gains in Michigan compared to other states led to the loss of a seat in the U.S. House for our state. Republicans, who controlled the redistricting process, combined the districts of Democratic members of Congress John Dingell and Lynn Rivers - and Dingell won the primary election between the two.

Redistricting also led to the pending ouster of Democratic Congressman James Barcia. Instead of squaring off against Democratic Congressman Dale Kildee for the same seat, Barcia opted not to run for Congress this term.

Two Michigan Supreme Court seats. Two years ago, Democrats and Republicans spent a total of $16 million in a nasty campaign to put their favored candidates on the state's highest court.

The Republican candidates won - and this election year, although the seats aren't any less important, Dems and their supporters are not willing to make the same push.

Maggie Drake, a Wayne County Circuit judge, and J. Martin Brennan, a Rochester attorney, are the Democratic rivals to incumbents Elizabeth Weaver and Robert Young Jr., who are supported by the Republican Party and part of the current 5-2 voting majority.

The Republican-dominated Supreme Court has made it much more difficult for workers to win personal injury cases - or any lawsuits against businesses. The high court has made it especially difficult for workers to win workers' compensation cases. In many rulings they have ignored and overturned years of existing case law.

Ron Bretz, a professor at Cooley Law School and a former public defender, criticized the court majority of Weaver, Young, Stephen Markman, Maura Corrigan, and Clifford Taylor as the "gang of five" who carry out Engler's pro-insurance company, pro-big business bidding.

"I think this court is going to be seen in the future as one of the most radical courts we've had," Bretz said in a published report.

Proposal 02-1, Eliminate the "straight party" voting option.

Michigan voters have had the option of voting a straight party ticket for more than a century. One click of a lever, drawing of a single black line or the single punch of a chad has allowed Michigan voters to cast their ballot for an entire slate of either Democratic or Republican candidates. Under the guise of election reform, Republicans want to eliminate straight-party balloting, and complicate the process of voting.

Organized labor is urging voters to vote "No" on Proposal 1, because passage would increase voting time, create longer lines at polling places and make it more difficult for senior citizens to cast a ballot.

Proposal 02-2, is a measure to authorize bonds for sewage treatment works projects, storm water projects and water pollution projects

Passage would authorize the state to borrow not more than $1 billion dollars to improve the quality of our state's water by financing the above water projects. It provides for payment of the bonds from the state's general fund. Our members are encouraged to vote yes - $1 billion in new construction projects would be a boost to the construction industry.

Proposal 02-3, is a proposal to amend the State Constitution to grant state employees the constitutional right to collective bargaining with binding arbitration.

The proposal would give classified state employees the right to organize, require the state to bargain in good faith and extend the right to submit unresolved negotiating issues to binding arbitration 30 days after bargaining has begun.

The current state employee contract has been unilaterally changed over 100 times by the employer. This proposal would end that. A yes vote is urged - this is one way to bolster unions in Michigan.


Time to bring building trades 'back to the table' in Michigan politics

By Jennifer Granholm

First and foremost, let me thank the building trades for endorsing my candidacy for governor. Your early and strong support for my campaign helped me win big in the August primary. With your support this fall, I will win, and together we will make history. And for the first time in 12 years, the building trades will have a seat at the policy table in Lansing.

I am proud to have chosen state Sen. John D. Cherry of Clio as my running mate. As you know, Sen. Cherry is a long-time ally of the labor movement in our state. His legislative expertise and his strong interest in helping working families made him the top choice for me.

Like you, I have a job to do - build a future for Michigan families that protects their economic security. That includes not raising property taxes. My opponent in this campaign has not told the truth about my stance on Proposal A. I have not and will not propose any change to Proposal A that will raise property taxes. I will keep the promise of Proposal A, which has resulted in lower property taxes for Michigan families and more equitable funding for our schools.

It is irresponsible for my opponent to charge that I will raise taxes when the current administration is not spending the state's money wisely. Until the state spends every taxpayer penny effectively, no one should be talking about raising taxes.

Protecting your economic security means protecting your access to your health care benefits. My opponent wants to convert Blue Cross Blue Shield from a non-profit company to a for-profit one. "Politicizing" Blue Cross will result in higher health-care coverage premiums for working families, pricing many families out of their coverage.

I have opposed making Blue Cross a for-profit company, since I first heard that the Republican-controlled legislature was considering the move. I will continue to fight to keep Blue Cross a non-profit company to keep health care insurance affordable for our families.

Keeping your workplace safe is also key to your economic security. With fewer MIOSHA inspectors under the Engler-Posthumus Administration, some workers have paid with their lives. As Governor, I will fight to get more safety inspectors in the field, we can perform regular, unannounced inspections of work sites to ensure your personal safety.

Sen. Cherry and I also plan to fight for stronger corporate responsibility standards in Michigan. We will fight for better 401k protection and we are developing legislation that specifically makes corporate insider trading and document shredding done to obstruct justice, a crime in our state. We also will issue an executive order our first week in office that bans the state from doing business with companies that break state or federal laws in regards to environment, workers' rights, and corporate accountability laws.

Protecting working families also means preserving our prevailing wage laws. As attorney general I have vigorously defended our prevailing wage laws in court. As governor, I will do everything I can to strengthen and protect them. We also will fight to index unemployment benefits to the rate of inflation.

Workers deserve to have unemployment compensation that keeps up with the cost of living. I applauded the elimination of the "penalty week," but it disappoints me that only workers who make more than $30,000 a year receive an increase and that 40 percent of laid-off workers will see no increase. All workers need an increase.

I look forward to working with the building trades along the campaign trail, and when I am in the governor's office in Lansing, a Granholm-Cherry Administration will bring the building trades back to the table to help create policies that treat both workers and employers fairly.


Granholm's goal: taking this state back for the working families of Michigan

By John Cherry

It's an honor to be chosen as the lieutenant governor running mate for Democratic gubernatorial nominee Attorney General Jennifer Granholm. Her commitment to protecting our families and educating our children ensures that positive changes will help our working families when we take office in January.

Your early support of Jennifer Granholm for Governor and your continued support today will help us take back this state. And, I personally appreciate the support you have shown me over the past 20 years of my legislative career.

While the Republicans in Lansing have talked about helping working families, they have attacked and weakened our collective strength.

Republican actions speak louder than words:

  • They have reduced the number of MIOSHA inspectors in the field.
  • They have made it more difficult for union members to financially support political activities.
  • They fought against increasing the minimum wage and unemployment benefits.
  • They have proposed "profitizing" Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, resulting in higher health care premiums for our working families.

Jennifer Granholm and I are committed to protecting your economic security. We will bring new high-tech, high-wage jobs to Michigan and ensure workers receive the training they need. We will protect your health care by keeping Blue Cross non-profit and lower prescription drug costs.

We will also make educating our children a top priority by expanding early childhood education programs, raising standards, and reducing class size.

The Engler-Posthumus Administration's elimination of the Department of Labor did a disservice to working men and women. A Granholm-Cherry Administration will restore the Department of Labor and streamline state services to ensure both workers and employers are treated fairly - creating a state government that is lean, but not mean.

Our opponents know that we have a strong message, and they are countering it with misinformation about Jennifer Granholm. For instance, they are telling you that she does not support Second Amendment rights and the right to hunt. We support the right of sportsmen and women to keep firearms for:

  • Home and business protection
  • Hunting
  • Target practice
  • Collection

We will advocate for programs that educate gun owners about responsible usage and keeping firearms out of the reach of children. And, we will zealously enforce existing gun laws. The bottom line - we support your Second Amendment rights - don't let the Republicans tell you otherwise.

Jennifer Granholm and I are excited about taking this state back for the working families of Michigan. With your help this fall, we will do just that.


As AG, Peters pledges to take building trades' case

Gary Peters is an attorney, a two-term state senator, a financial advisor, and a U.S. Navy reservist. He has a wide range of experience, and now he wants to put some of that experience to work in a job that requires a full range of talents: he's the state Democratic candidate for Michigan attorney general.

"My experience is very broad," said the 43-year-old Oakland County resident, "but the office is very broad."

As a state senator, Peters has sponsored dozens of anti-crime laws and has worked to provide tax relief, improve Michigan schools and hold elected officials accountable. Peters has sponsored a number of anti-terrorism laws, and has supported measures to crack down on child abuse, fight domestic violence, punish abusers of the elderly, enact tough penalties on repeat DUI offenders, reduce utility taxes, stop unwanted telemarketing, and prohibit predatory lending.

The chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus, Peters serves as the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, Finance Committee, Education Committee, and Natural Resources Committee.

Peters serves as a lieutenant and a Seabee combat warfare specialist in the U.S. Naval Reserve. His reserve duty included time in the Persian Gulf supporting Operation Southern Watch, and he served overseas during increased military activity following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. During his service he received numerous awards and citations, including the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal and the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal.

A marksman as a Seabee, Peters told the building trades rally in Lansing last month, "I am proud to say that I am a gun owner, and I am a hunter, and I will fight to preserve our Second Amendment rights in Michigan."

At the rally Peters pointed to his union background (his father was a public school teacher and his mother was a nursing home union steward) and pledged to support union causes as attorney general.

"I will fight for pensions and good wages and safety. I will fight for you and take your case in Lansing," he said.


Hollowell wants to streamline election process, improve voter education

Melvin J. "Butch" Hollowell has been endorsed by the Detroit and Michigan Building and Construction Trades Councils in his bid for Michigan Secretary of State.

"I've visited 150 Secretary of State offices around Michigan to get acquainted with the workers and to see first-hand how they are operating," Hollowell said. "Frankly, I found most of them are running pretty good. But I have a lot of ideas on how to make them even better.
"With this background, once I'm selected and then elected, I'll be ready to roll."

A partner in the Detroit-based law firm Butzel Long, Hollowell, 43, has experience in the areas of public finance, public contracting, real estate, administrative issues, and business and corporate law. As secretary of state, his duties would primarily be to administer state elections and make sure all the tasks associated with secretary of state branches run smoothly.

Two years ago, Hollowell worked as one of the five lawyers on Al Gore's legal team in Florida during the presidential vote-counting dispute. Hollowell obviously has a great interest in history, as he liberally sprinkles quotes from the nation's founding fathers into his talks on the campaign trail.

"I don't want to see what I saw in Florida happen in Michigan," he told Michigan Building Trades Council delegates last August. About 10 percent of the state still uses antiquated metal voting machines, while another 27 percent still use punch cards with the infamous hanging chads. He said he wants to convert the whole state to an optical scanning voting system. "We owe it to the people of Michigan to have the highest technology available," he said.

One other goal of Hollowell's: to make information on the importance of registering to vote and voting part of high school civics curricula.

"Students need to know how precious our right to vote is," he said.



IBEW's Stephens runs for U-M regent
Greg Stepens, business manager of IBEW Local 252 in Ann Arbor, will be on the Nov. 5 statewide ballot as one of two democratic candidates for University of Michigan Board of Regents.

Stephens sought and received the nomination of the Michigan Democratic Party during their Aug. 24 caucus, along with Ish Ahmed.

Stephens said that one of his priorities will be to bolster union hiring at the university.

"There's currently over $1 billion in construction work at the University of Michigan," Stephens said. "We're talking jobs for our members. Right now, we have to go through a chain of command when we approach the university, and with me in there, we'll have someone there who can get things done."

U-M is governed by the Board of Regents, which consists of eight members elected at large in biennial state-wide elections. The regents serve without compensation for overlapping terms of eight years. According to the Michigan Constitution of 1963, the Regents have "general supervision" of the institution and "the control and direction of all expenditures from the institution's funds." The Regents meet once a month in a public session.

Michigan State and Wayne State also are governed by boards of regents, who are elected in a like manner.

"We almost never get much help from boards of regents," said MBTC Secretary-Treasurer Tom Boensch, "so it would be great for us if we could get Greg elected."

New way to resolve Jurisdictional disputes
For the first time in more than a generation, the unionized construction industry is changing jurisdictional policies and procedures to meet the demands of a modern economy.

The Governing Board of Presidents of the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department on Oct. 17 voted to adopt significant changes to jurisdictional policies.

Over the last century, the resolution of jurisdictional disputes between construction trades unions has probably been the top sore point. In January 2002 Building Trades President Edward Sullivan established a Committee on Jurisdiction comprised of Governing Board of Presidents members to consider and recommend specific jurisdictional plan changes to more effectively resolve disputes.

"Decisions of record dating back to the early 1900s were being used to guide resolution of today's jurisdictional problems," Sullivan said. "Some may not be relevant to today's construction industry. The changes adopted by the Governing Board are a great improvement in the jurisdictional plan and clearly make it more effective."

The most significant change made to the jurisdictional plan provides for a mechanism that for the first time considers "area practice" as a major determining factor in dispute resolution. Under the old criteria, decisions of record were given the heaviest weight in jurisdictional hearings. Under the new policies that were adopted, decisions of record may be challenged by an affected union citing area practice.

The accepted changes will now be considered by the contractor members of the Jurisdictional Plan Board for approval and are expected to be adopted.


The Building Tradesman Current Issue | Back Issues Index