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September 15, 2000
By Marty Mulcahy
With the airwaves filled with election rhetoric already for much of the year, few Americans would mind if we returned to the tradition of making Labor Day the kickoff point of the presidential campaign season.
Labor Day is now seen as more of a marker for candidates to gear up their campaigns, and this year, the gears were being shifted in Michigan. Democratic Presidential candidate Al Gore, his running mate Joe Lieberman and GOP presidential hopeful George W. Bush all made the rounds in Michigan, which is widely recognized as a tremendously important state in this year's Nov. 7 general election.
On Sept. 4, thousands of labor union members took to the streets of Detroit, Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Marquette for annual Labor Day celebrations. Lieberman was on hand to talk to union members after the Detroit march
"Our No. 1 goal is to keep the prosperity going and make sure that it enriches all of America's families, not just a privileged few," Lieberman said.
Gore and Lieberman on Labor Day completed a 24-hour marathon campaign schedule, where they talked to workers in six states. Gore made a stop in Flint, where he told workers, "We're doing it to honor your work."
Lieberman joked in Detroit, "This has been a heck of a 24 hours. I'm beginning to think vice presidential candidates should have collective bargaining rights."
Hard campaigning is going to help, but the vote of the American people is going to be swayed by what each candidate has to offer in terms of policies and issues. Following are the stances of candidates Gore and Bush on some of the issues that affect working people. More will come in future editions.
Issue: The Davis-Bacon Act - The most important pocketbook issue to the nation's construction workforce - both union and nonunion - this 69-year-old federal law was set up to assure that out-of-state or unscrupulous contractors with a low-paid workforce can't win federally funded construction project bids based on paying their workers a low wage.
The importance of this law to the incomes of all construction workers can't be overstated. The law means financial stability, security and a decent standard of living.
Federal tax dollars are spent in areas such as road building, school construction, military installations, and municipal buildings. If a Republican Congress stays in control in Washington after the Nov. 4 election, there's a great chance that a Davis-Bacon repeal bill will land on the president's desk. If the president repeals Davis-Bacon, it's only a matter of time before the wage levels of construction workers go down.
Where the candidates stand:
Gore: Has fought anti-worker measures throughout his time in Congress and as vice president. He would veto the bill.
Bush: Governs a right-to-work state and is on record as opposing Davis-Bacon. (Source: AFL-CIO Report on Congress).
Issue: Minimum wage - When Congress passed the minimum wage increase in 1996-1997, those who benefited most were older than 20 - not teenagers looking for extra cash. Of those older than 20, 40 percent were the sole breadwinner in their families
Congressional Democrats have called for raising the minimum wage this year from the current $5.15 per hour to $6.15 per hour. Republicans have resisted the idea, claiming that it would be too costly to business.
Where the candidates stand:
Gore: Supported raising the minimum wage when the issue came up when he was in Congress in 1977, 1988 and 1989. He also called on Congress to raise the wage in 1998, 1999 and 2000.
Bush: As Texas governor, he opposed increasing and extending the minimum wage three times. He has not supported or introduced legislation to increase the state minimum wage for agricultural or domestic workers, which is $3.35 an hour. (Such workers are exempt from the federal law). In fact, on March 9, Bush supported a House amendment allowing states to be exempt from coverage by the federal minimum wage law. (Source: New York Post).
Issue: Workers' rights - This a black or white topic: does the candidate favor workers or companies?
Where the candidates stand:
Gore: Opposes striker replacement, supports workers' right to organize, and opposes company unions.
Bush: Touts his state's anti-union policies and the Texas Department of Economic Development brags about the state's low wages and anti-labor climate. (Source: WNBT-TV, News Forum). Publication In These Times reports that business groups "are confident that he will greatly weaken OSHA and kill the ergonomics standard if they can delay its implementation until 2001."
So, Michigan voters what makes you so special?
If it seems to you as if Michigan is getting more than its usual share of attention from presidential candidates in the 2000 campaign season, you would be correct.
"Every political writer has a special function on their computer that reads: 'American national elections are decided in the industrial heartland.' They are," said Wall Street Journal opinion writer Albert Hunt. His analysis of the nation's electoral count boiled the entire race down to "two critical contests:" in Pennsylvania and Michigan.
"If either ticket carries both these states and their 44 electoral votes, it can start measuring for White House drapes," Hunt wrote.
Michigan has actually been a key "swing state" for two decades. In 1980 and 1984, "Reagan Democrats" changed the political landscape in Michigan, helping put Ronald Reagan into the White House. In 1988, Michigan went for George Bush, but in 1992 and 1996, the state decisively supported Bill Clinton. Today's polling has the leanings of Michigan voters divided about equally among Democrats, Republicans and Independent voters.
The AFL-CIO is spending some $40 million, much of it in Michigan, to get out the union vote in this year's election. They're hoping for a repeat of 1996, when 40 percent of Michigan's union members turned out to vote, providing a big boost for Clinton. Republicans still have the big bucks behind them: the GOP National Committee will spend $100 million this fall to get out the vote.
Since serious campaign finance reforms have not been enacted, unions have been forced to close the gap on political spending. In the election year of 1994, corporations outspent organized labor by an 11-1 margin. That year, union members comprised only 13 percent of the vote, resulting in a rout where Republicans took control of both the U.S. House and Senate for the first time since the 1950s.
Increased spending by organized labor showed in 1998, when
nationwide union turnout nearly doubled from 1994, to 23 percent,
allowing the Democratic Party to come within five votes of re-taking
the U.S. House.
Also too close to call is the key race for the open U.S. Senate held by Republican Spencer Abraham and challenger Debbie Stabenow, and the campaign for the open 8th District Congressional seat sought by between Democrat Diane Byrum and Republican Mike Rogers.
So candidates are spending some serious time and money in our state in attempting to sway the fence-sitters.
"Michigan can make a difference in this election,"
Lieberman said on Labor Day. "Give us your hearts, hands,
voices and votes."
By Marty Mulcahy
IBEW Local 58 member Bob Jones is quite familiar with that term these days, having won his division in the 2000 Indoor U.S. National Championship and the International Field Archery Association World Championship.
Jones, 37, shot 60 arrows each day during both of the two-day competitions, which were held on separate weekends in March in Tulsa, OK. Of the 120 arrows he shot, 107 hit the bullseye, 20 yards away. This is the second time he won the national championship - the other win came in 1998 - and it was the first time he took a world title.
"It was a real thrill when I won in 1998, because before that I had a lot of second-and third-place finishes," Jones said. "But it was a great to win again and really nice to take the world championship."
Besides practicing, Jones said he doesn't do much to prepare for an archery competition. "I eat a normal meal, and limit my caffeine intake, but other than that, I don't do much to prepare," he said. "Ninety percent of this is mental concentration."
On the national level, men and women archers from around the country competed in one of 22 divisions. Jones competed in the Bare-Bow Division, which is a finger-release bow without a site. His score of 587 out of a possible 600 beat out 10 other contestants. Each division has equipment differences: Freestyle, for example, involves the use of any bow on the market with a site. Scoring is done on a 5-4-3-2-1 system, in conjunction with the rings of the target.
An electrician since 1988, Jones has been shooting a bow since he was five, when his dad got him involved in the sport. Bob has passed his knowledge of the sport along to his 10-year-old son, Jason, who took second in the national outdoor title a year ago. And Bob met his wife Chris through a mutual interest in archery.
Jones won't be around to defend his world title two years from now - the competition is in Singapore - and the Olympics aren't in his future, either. Olympians use a straight-limb bow rather than the compound bow he uses in competition. "There are some guys who are able to make the transition, but only 10 percent of all archers use the straight limb," he said. But as he does every year, Jones will be out in the Michigan outdoors this fall, hunting deer with a bow and rifle.
"Taking part in the competition is fun," Jones said,
"but there's nothing better than sitting up in a tree during
ANN ARBOR - When the odometer flipped on a new century in 1900, 15 men gathered to accept the charter granted by International Union, which was then called the United Association of Journeyman Plumbers, Gas Fitters, Steam Fitters and Steam Fitters' Helpers of the U.S. and Canada.
The document established Local 190 as the bargaining agent for pipe trades workers in the area. Plumbers and Pipe Fitters Local 190 helped institute a wage standard, set working conditions, and brought about a pension plan for the workers who joined the union.
One hundred years later, the local's mission hasn't changed and the membership has grown to more than 1,000. On June 22 at Eastern Michigan University Convocation Center, more than 1,200 members and well-wishers gathered to honor Local 190's centennial under the theme, "celebrating a century of pride."
"It was a great celebration for a great local," said Local 190 Business Manager Ron House. "We saw old and new members, International President Marty Maddaloni, International Representative Joe Sposita, and union officers from around the country were here to celebrate. It went off like clockwork."
House said only seven businesses in the Ann Arbor area have been in business as long as Local 190 - "that's pretty impressive when you think about it," he said.
Like any union local in Michigan, Local 190 has seen its ups and downs over the years. In the beginning years, the local had to overcome anti-union bias in Ann Arbor. Like every other occupation, members were hit hard by the Great Depression. Work at the Willow Run bomber plant helped membership grow during World War II, and a training program was established at the close of the war.
Fringe benefit programs were established, and Local 190 staged its first modern strike to obtain a health and welfare plan for members. In the 1950s, the expansion at Willow Run brought 800 travelers. The local's Gas Distribution Division began to flourish in the 1960s, and the Plant Department at the University of Michigan became a totally union shop.
Travel was necessary for Local 190 workers in the 1970s, with many going to work on the Alaskan pipeline. Erosion of work to the nonunion became more prevalent, and continued into the 1980s.
Fortunes for the local improved in the 1990s, when the United Association Instructor Training Program moved to Washtenaw Community College in 1990. Membership became stable, and then increased toward the end of the decade when work brought full employment.
This year marked the 11th year that Local 190 has hosted the Instructor Training Program, and in the spring, the local moved into a new union hall on Jackson Road.
In his letter to the local, Maddaloni said "You have
set an example for others to follow and secured your place in
the history of the United Association. You should be very proud
of yourselves and your local union leadership, under the direction
of Brother House, who have worked hard on your behalf. The United
Association was built upon the strong ideals and dedication of
working people just like you."
The construction industry continued to lead the nation in 1999 in a most unwelcome category - worker deaths.
There were 1,190 fatalities in the U.S. construction industry in 1999 - which represented nearly 20 percent of the nation's 6,023 workplace deaths. The Bureau of Labor Statistics Report, released Aug. 17, said the transportation and utilities sector had the second-highest rate of all worker deaths in 1999, 17 percent.
The fatality rate in construction in 1999 increased by 16 worker deaths from the year before, while all worker deaths in the U.S. dropped by 32 in 1999 from 1998. "We have focused OSHA's resources in construction and other high-risk work sites and will continue to do so," said Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.
The top three ways in which workers died in 1999 were highway crashes, falls and homicides. There were 1,491 highway crashes that killed workers in 1999, accounting for nearly a quarter of all workplace deaths. There were 717 fatal falls in the U.S. last year, and more than half were in the construction industry.
In Michigan, 31 construction workers were killed on the job
in 1999 - two more than in 1998.
Jeremy Hughes, superintendent of Dearborn Schools, argues that education vouchers will not provide parents with the choice and competition in education that voucher proponents promise. He urges voter opposition to the proposed amendment to the Michigan Constitution that is on the November ballot.
In November, Michigan voters will decide to allow public tax money to go to private and parochial schools in the form of what is called voucher. A voucher is a coupon good for a certain number of dollars of education. Parents could submit this voucher to a private or parochial school, and the school could, if it decides to enroll the student, cash it in with the State of Michigan.
Proponents of education vouchers repeatedly use two words: choice and competition. Vouchers, they say, will give parents choice in their children's education.
Vouchers, they say, will create some competition, for the public schools when parents have the money to send their children elsewhere. With competition, public schools will be forced to improve, or lose students. The public schools I know are not afraid of competition - they've regularly faced it. Alternative schools - private and parochial - have existed for years.
I have some words I'd like to use also to talk about vouchers. The words are "rules of the game."
In most of life, competition is based on playing by the same rules of the game. Government agencies exist to make sure that everyone plays by the same rules of the game. No one minds competition as long as competitors are playing by the same rules.
My concern about educational vouchers is that private and parochial schools do not have to play by the same rules as public schools.
They do not have to take everyone who applies. They can select their students.
They are allowed to use admissions tests to choose whom they will accept as students.
They can reject students of lower academic ability.
They can reject students with academic, behavioral or disciplinary problems.
They can reject students who are handicapped, learning disabled, and in need of special education services.
They can kick out students who misbehave, without due process that must be followed in expelling students from public schools.
They are not required to administer any state tests that are used to determine whether schools are being successful in teaching students.
They are not required to publish the results of whatever tests they do give. Therefore, parents and taxpayers won't know how well these students are learning.
They are not required to hire certified teachers.
They are not required to have a minimum number of days or total hours of school each year.
They are not required to be governed by a board of directors that is elected by and responsible to the people who elected them.
Whatever board does govern them is not required by law to hold its meetings in public, make its decisions in public or make its records available to the public.
Nothing in the proposed voucher program would change any of this. On the contrary, the legislation that is proposed would continue to exempt private and parochial from any such rules.
All of this leads me to ask some questions.
Is it really accurate to say that vouchers will give parents choice, when it really is the private school that will make the choice - that is, to choose whether to take your child and your voucher?
Is it really competition when the rules of the game are different for the players? Can you even win the competition when the opponent is free from most of the rules you have to follow?
Do I want my tax money going to support schools that are allowed to operate by different rules?
If being free from such rules is what will give students better education, if this is the competition that will improve public schools, why not exempt public schools from these rules also?
It is clear to me that if better education and competition is really the goal of the voucher movement, one of two things should happen:
Require any private or parochial school that accepts taxpayer-paid vouchers to play by the same rules as public schools.
OR, in the name of better education and competition, allow the public schools the same freedoms that are allowed the private and parochial schools.
Neither of these things, of course, is likely to happen.
Why? Because I think selection of students is the real issue behind vouchers. Parents who say they are dissatisfied with their children's public schools and want to help send their children to private or parochial schools are usually quick to say they are not trying to get away from their children's teachers or their principals. They are usually quick to say that these people are working hard to give their children a better education.
What they finally will admit is that they are trying to get away from other students:
Who are not interested in learning;
Whose parents are not involved in school;
Who are from a different cultural background;
Who are behavior problems in the school or classroom;
Who occupy too much of the teacher's time;
Who are bad examples or role models for their children.
If they thought for a minute that a private or parochial school, by accepting vouchers, had to accept all students, this voucher issue would disappear. Behind vouchers is the desire to have money to send children to a school that is selective and elite, a school that will keep out or quickly get rid of those whom parents do not want in their children's school.
Unless a voucher plan requires private and parochial schools to play by public school rules, or the public schools are freed from these rules, the voucher program will do nothing more than allow parents who choose private and parochial schools an additional way to pay for it. The fact that this will be taxpayer money is, in my opinion, an affront and an insult to public schools.
NLRB says temps can organize
The NLRB reversed its previous rulings and said that temporary workers have the right to join labor unions if their work closely resembles work undertaken by permanent workers. The three-to-one decision allows the temporary workers to be included in collective bargaining if they have similar job characteristics.
The board majority wrote that temporary workers "are being effectively denied representational rights guaranteed under the National Labor Relations Act."
The ruling, said AFL-CIO President John Sweeney, "is an important step in addressing the rights of contingent workforce employees, who have too often been relegated to second-class status and rights - if any."
Work in the construction trades now rivals clerical work as the number one industry in temp work. Each day nearly 250,000 construction workers are on the job as temps. More than 400 temporary agencies are trying to land work in construction for their employees, and they're finding takers: temporary agencies are providing an astounding 35 percent of all workers in the industrial/construction sector.
"If we do nothing, in 10 years as many workers will be
referred to construction sites from temporary agencies as from
union hiring halls," said Jeff Grabelsky, the Building Trades
Department's director of organizing. "They (temporary agencies)
are a growing cancer in our industry."
Bone marrow donors sought
If you aren't in the bone marrow transplant registry program, doing so can help give Dianne and other auto-immune or cancer patients a new lease on life.
Dianne, 52, was diagnosed with Lupus in 1993. It is a disease of the body's auto-immune system where the body turns on itself. Last year, it was discovered that Diane had also developed scleroderma, another auto-immune disease that affects the skin, connective tissue and organs.
Bone marrow transplants have been used in such cases with a fair degree of success, but first a suitable match must be found. Local 324 is encouraging anyone who hasn't had their blood type entered into the national bone marrow registry program to do so - it is an easy procedure that requires little time.
For more information, contact Local 324 at (734) 462-3665.