Michigan Dem Shauer Bids for Building Trades’ Support

WASHINGTON –Unions’ conferences in D.C. wouldn’t be complete without political hopefuls seeking labor’s support.  Michigan’s Mark Schauer, New Jersey’s Donald Norcross and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy filled those roles at the North American Building Trades Unions’ confab, March 9-12.

Norcross, who spoke March 10, has the easiest task.  The IBEW member, president of the Southern New Jersey Central Labor Council, and a current state senator, is the heavy favorite for an open seat in a special election in the 1st congressional district, a heavily Democratic region including Camden and other areas.

Democrats Schauer, 52, a Laborers Local 355 member from Battle Creek, Mich.,  and Malloy, 58, have tougher rows to hoe.

Schauer will be the Democratic nominee against incumbent Right Wing Gov. Rick Snyder, R-Mich., a financier who used $6 million of his own money on TV ads alone in 2010 to win 58% of the vote.  Polls now call the Schauer-Snyder race a tossup.

Malloy barely won in heavily blue Connecticut in 2010, and he’s never been personally popular.  He came to the conference to tout labor-management-government cooperation and job creation in the Nutmeg State.

Snyder’s policies – which include cutting jobless benefits, curbing workers’ comp, eliminating teacher tenure and enacting a so-called “right to work” law – brought an impassioned Schauer to the podium before 3,000 delegates.  “I’m Mark Schauer and I need your help,” he began, in a nod to common campaign TV ad endings.

And the first thing he’ll do when he wins the governor’s office in Lansing is to repeal right to work, Schauer, a former 1-term congressman, vowed.   His speech was more of the same, and got an enthusiastic response from the union crowd:

  • Schauer ripped Snyder as “a vulture capitalist” who, as CEO of Gateway Computers, “shipped jobs to China and then took the company bankrupt.”
  • Snyder moved on to emasculate pro-worker policies in the state that, Schauer said, “gave birth to the U.S. middle class,” through ground-breaking union contracts, many of them won by the United Auto Workers.  He blasted Snyder for enacting “a job killing retirement (benefits) tax” for trying three times to outlaw project labor agreements and even for “increasing taxes on minimum-wage earners.”
  • “He passed right to work to attack middle-class families and drive down wages.  You don’t create a middle class by attacking working people,” Schauer exclaimed.  “In December 2012, we stood on the front steps of the capitol in the freezing cold to protest Snyder’s right to work law.   We got pepper-sprayed in the process.  But it will take more than mounted state police in riot gear to stop us.”

All this to achieve Snyder’s goal of a multi-billion-dollar corporate tax cut, Schauer said – even while Michigan was losing jobs and its workers saw flat or declining incomes.

That also led Schauer to cast the election in class terms.  “Like you, I spent this winter shoveling out my own driveway,” he commented.  “While I was doing so, for the umpteenth time, I had to stop and remember that Snyder doesn’t even know the name of the guy who does it in his gated community…I’ve taken out two GOP nominees” in other races “and Snyder will be #3,” he vowed.

 

Delegates loved Schauer’s speech and Laborers President Terry O’Sullivan said in a later brief interview that the Democrat “will have a ton of support” from unions when he takes on Snyder this fall.  “There’s a lot of unhappy people” in Michigan “and he’s got a populist platform” and record that will appeal to workers, O’Sullivan added.  “He’s a man of the working class who hasn’t forgotten where he comes from.

Malloy accentuated the positive.  When he entered the governor’s office in Hartford 3-1/2 years ago, he said, the state was in a depression, with people lamenting what could not get done.

“Connecticut today is a state where we argue how much more we can do – in education, in infrastructure, in rail, in highways.  That’s a very different conversation.  In Connecticut, we believe in the right to organize, the right to negotiate and we understand that America is stronger  when we work together,” added Malloy, who last year joined a nurses’ picket line against a nursing home chain that had locked them out.

“And we’re doing many of our construction projects with project labor agreements,” Malloy declared.  “We’ve laid out a plan for $1.4 billion in (construction) spending in the next year, and we’re working with the private sector.  That’s how we created 43,000 jobs” during his term.

-PAI