Michigan’s Union Members and Environmentalists Call for Jobs Plan

Members and representatives from the state's top environmental organizations - the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Clean Water Action - today joined with Michigan labor leaders to call for an end to recent attacks on workers' rights.

May 25, 2011

Environmentalists Call for End to Assault on Workers’ Rights, Hailing Michigan’s Union Workers as “Guardians of the Environment”

LANSING, MI (May 25, 2011) Members and representatives from the state’s top environmental organizations – the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and Clean Water Action – today joined with Michigan labor leaders to call for an end to recent attacks on workers’ rights – declaring that union workers are Michigan’s guardians of the environment. The labor and environmental leaders, led by BlueGreen Alliance Jobs21! Co-Chair and former Michigan Congressman Mark Schauer, called for a statewide plan to preserve and create the jobs of the 21st century economy in Michigan.

“We are proud to stand here alongside our union brothers and sisters to call for an end to the anti-workers attacks in Lansing,” said Anne Woiwode, State Director for the Sierra Club Michigan Chapter. “In this down economy, we should be focusing on how to create good jobs and revitalize Michigan’s economy – and how to ensure a healthy environment for our children and our grandchildren – not how to further deny Michigan’s workers their basic right on the job.”

“Environmentalists and union workers have been working together to make our air, water and land cleaner for over 40 years,” continued Woiwode. “We have a strong bond and a common goal: making Michigan, and America, a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous place to live and work.”

“Attacks on the rights of these public employees make it harder to attract and retain quality workers who can enforce environmental regulations,” said Clean Water Action Policy Director Susan Harley. “Budget cuts to local communities and policies such as the Emergency Financial Manager law put the jobs of front-line workers – those who protect our water and our natural resources – at risk, and make it harder for people at the local level to protect the health and safety of their communities.”

With the state’s unemployment at more than 10 percent – still one of the highest in the nation – Lansing lawmakers this year have introduced legislation that chips away at basic rights on the job, such as requiring state workers pay up to 20 percent of their health care coverage costs, attacks on teacher tenure and the right to strike, and attempts to repeal or limit the prevailing wage. Lawmakers have also proposed limits to workplace safety and environmental regulations.

“Instead of continued efforts to take away basic rights on the job – including workplace safety and environmental regulations – we need to focus on creating good jobs in this state,” said Mark Gaffney, President of the Michigan AFL-CIO. “We need a jobs plan that strengthens and modernizes the industries of today and build the jobs and industries of tomorrow. We need a plan that supports and grows industries that will simultaneously help to protect the environment and secure our energy future – and we need to do that right here in Michigan.”

“Threats to bargaining rights, attacks on public sector workers, attempts to eliminate safety and health regulations, and a lack of focus on clean energy – these things don’t create jobs,” said Mark Schauer, a former Congressman from Michigan’s Seventh District and the Co-Chair of the BlueGreen Alliance’s Jobs21! initiative. “We are calling on Lansing to come up with a real jobs plan that will maintain the jobs we have and create new ones in the industries of the 21st century economy. If we don’t get to work on this now, Michigan and the U.S. will fall further and further behind.”

“It’s time for Lansing to focus on what matters to steelworkers, to union members, to environmentalists and to Michigan families in cities and towns across the state. It’s time for our leaders to focus on good jobs, safe communities, and a healthy environment to live in,” said Michael Bolton, United Steelworkers District 2 Director. “We need to get past the distractions and compete for the jobs and industries of the 21st century. We can and must win them.”