For the first time ever, trade unions were invited to sponsor and speak at last week’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference, Michigan’s biennial bellwether GOP summit. Former U.S. Rep. Pete Hoekstra took the stage with representatives of both Operating Engineers 324 and Michigan Laborers District Council to discuss their shared values and the future of union-Republican collaboration.
The OE324 and MLDC together represent almost 30,000 construction workers in Michigan whose handiwork is considered the gold standard in construction, road building, and pipelines.
“Right to work and prevailing wage, that’s behind us. We are about moving forward,” OE324 Political Director William Miller III told The Detroit News at Saturday’s conference. “We are truly policy over party.”
Is this what happens when Republicans make good on their claim as the party of the working class? Absolutely, and the evidence is increasing. Consider the proposal from Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., for a “blue-collar bonus,” or the Republicans trying to resuscitate the Keystone XL Pipeline construction — and thousands of good-paying American jobs — that President Biden canceled on his first day in office.
President Trump captured the populist rhetoric of a movement that’s really happening, and Lansing is no exception.
Republicans Are Now Unions’ Only Ally
For professional trade unions in Michigan — as for any entity focused on longevity, opportunity, fewer regulations, and lower taxes for hard-working people — Republicans aren’t just one ally in Lansing, they are the only ally in Lansing. Where Democrats once advocated for trade union values, they now choose activism over job creation, time after time.
For an example, see the fight in Michigan over Enbridge Energy’s Line 5. With no impetus except Green Deal activism against fossil fuels, Democrats started a court battle aimed at shutting down Line 5, the pipeline that transports more than half a million barrels a day of oil and natural gas liquids throughout the Great Lakes region.
Closure of the pipeline would kill tens of thousands of jobs, hurt farmers, remove a source of essential heat to thousands of Michigan families, diminish state tax revenue, and cut off crude oil supply to refineries across the Midwest.
Democrats show not only resistance regarding Line 5, but heartless cynicism. They offer no viable solution to the pipeline’s closure and the enormous effect on human lives. Their disdain for rural life is palpable.
Contrast this with trade union leaders on the GOP stage Saturday describing their apprenticeship