Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
COOPERSVILLE August 4, 2015– About 30 west Michigan union members met with newly-elected Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber over lunch today at the Plumbers & Fitters hall in Coopersville. The lunch was organized as a way for labor leaders, rank-and-file members and Bieber to meet and discuss challenges facing the labor community and new opportunities to address them. Bieber was elected to head the state fed in June.
Much of Bieber’s message was around fighting back against attacks on labor by political and corporate greed. He said union members and labor councils are critical in the fight, and can do a lot to push back on issues like the prevailing wage repeal and the proposed age-based minimum wage reduction.
“These fights will be won locally, not in Lansing,” said Bieber. “These politicians don’t like to be called out and exposed locally and individually [on their anti-working family legislation].”
Bieber also stressed that the fight is harder now than it’s been years past.
“Right-wing politicians have shown that they’re willing to cross a line that they wouldn’t have gone near before– right-to-work was the first one, but now they’re going after the state’s prevailing wage.
“The political system is broken,” he said. “I’ve been reluctant to say that in the past, but now I’m not. The political system is now driven only by money, and not what’s in the best interest of people.”
Bieber, the son of former UAW President Owen Bieber, also talked about his west Michigan roots. He got his start as a member of the UAW Local 730, working at GM’s now-shuttered Metal Fabricating plant on 36th Street in Wyoming. He said it’s always startling to drive back into town and see that the place where he got his start in labor is now a parking lot, covered in weeds.
Also speaking at today’s luncheon were Mark Mangione (UA Local 174), KICLC President Sean Egan (IBEW Local 275), Lakeshore CLC President Ryan Bennett (UA Local 174) and Michigan AFL-CIO Political Director Derek Dobies.