By James P. Hoffa
Published in the Detroit News, Nov. 2, 2016
Next week, Michiganians will head to the polls to vote for candidates up and down the ballot who will help craft the future of our communities, state and nation. And while the lead up to Election Day has certainly at times been a slog, that cannot stand as an excuse for not voting come Nov. 8.
The issues before us are just too important not to weigh in on. Our state and nation are facing significant economic and infrastructure challenges that must be conquered. For too long, elected officials in Lansing and Washington have sat back and done nothing while wages remain flat and roads and bridges continue to crumble. Meanwhile, the pensions of Teamsters and other workers are holding on by a thread and require government intervention.
Nationally, Michigan must help the U.S. confront the challenges it faces. Unemployment is dropping and more people are looking for jobs, but the quality of employment when it comes to pay and benefits is still lacking. Americans are working longer and harder but are still struggling to make ends meet. Corporations are keeping more of their sky-high profits for themselves.
That’s the reason the Teamsters and our allies have taken such a strong stand against the terrible Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The proposed 12-nation Pacific Rim trade deal is nothing but a corporate handout that will benefit big businesses all over the world at the expense of everyday workers who will increasingly see their jobs disappear here and wages fall.
Voters won’t solve the problem by electing a candidate who while talking a big game continues to have his products made overseas in places like China and Bangladesh. Donald Trump also hurts union workers by calling for a so-called right-to-work law nationwide and by refusing to recognize their legal right to organize, like he’s done at the Trump hotel in Las Vegas.
As our union explained last year, this country must commit to rebuilding its transportation, energy and water networks back to the level of greatness they once were. Not only will that put more people to work in jobs that pay a decent wage, it will also help businesses who will be able to rely on these systems to make and transport goods. It must also protect workers’ hard-earned retirement nest eggs.
We need elected representatives who want to rebuild the trust between government and workers and reinvest in the people that make this country great. Better pay will lead to more spending and improve workers’ quality of life. That way everyone wins.
However, that’s not happening currently. In Michigan, lawmakers decided it was more important to build new luxury offices for state legislators than to invest in the future of its people. At a time when tens of thousands of Flint residents continue to question the quality of their water, shouldn’t such concerns be the priority?
Michiganians stand at the cusp of a very important election. At a time when many workers continue to struggle to earn a wage that supports a family and more jobs are increasingly being sent overseas, now is not the time to take a pass on the electoral process. Michigan and America need the best and brightest who recognize that people are our greatest resource – and they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.